Research Activities, August 2013

More research needed to compare effectiveness of MRSA screening strategies in health care settings

Comparative Effectiveness Research

There is not enough evidence in the research literature to compare the effectiveness of screening strategies for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) in select patient populations, concludes an AHRQ research review. The review examines both universal and targeted MRSA-screening strategies compared with no screening. 

The review found low strength of evidence that screening all hospitalized patients (universal screening) for MRSA bacteria decreases hospital-acquired MRSA infections compared with no screening. However, there was not enough evidence to draw conclusions on the effectiveness of universal MRSA screening strategies on other outcomes, including the risk of death and other potential harms. Ultimately, the review underscores the need for additional well-designed studies that take into account factors that may complicate results, for example, the overall decreasing incidence of MRSA infection and the use of multiple techniques to prevent infection. 

MRSA is a type of staph bacteria that is resistant to certain antibiotics called beta-lactams. These antibiotics include methicillin and other more common antibiotics such as oxacillin, penicillin, and amoxicillin. In the community, most MRSA infections are skin infections. More severe or potentially life-threatening MRSA infections occur most frequently among patients in health care settings. 

After the completion of an Effective Health Care review of the topic, an AHRQ-funded project on different approaches to reduce MRSA infection was published in the May 30, 2013, online issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. In that study, researchers achieved a 44 percent reduction in all-cause bloodstream infections and significantly reduced the presence of MRSA when they decolonized every patient who entered the intensive care unit, regardless of MRSA status. AHRQ funds numerous research projects to identify the best approaches for reducing MRSA and other healthcare-associated infections. 

The research review, Screening for Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA), is available at

Page last reviewed August 2013
Page originally created August 2013
Internet Citation: More research needed to compare effectiveness of MRSA screening strategies in health care settings. Content last reviewed August 2013. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD.