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Genomics uncovers MRSA outbreaks

Genomic sequencing has been successfully used to investigate outbreaks of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).

It has provided snapshots of the transmission during suspected outbreaks in isolated hospital wards. 

Further work is now required to establish the full potential of this technology for surveillance.

The researchers prospectively identified all individuals over a 12-month period who had at least one MRSA-positive sample processed by a microbiology laboratory in the east of England.

The lab received samples from three hospitals and 75 GP practices. 

They sequenced at least one MRSA isolate from 1465 individuals and recorded epidemiological data. 

The analysis revealed 173 transmission clusters containing between two and 44 cases and involving 598 people. 

Of these, 118 clusters (371 people) involved hospital contacts alone, 27 clusters (72 people) involved community contacts alone, and 28 clusters (157 people) had both types of contact. 

Community- and hospital-associated MRSA lineages were equally capable of transmission in the community, with instances of spread in households, long-term care facilities, and GP practices. 

The paper suggests that there is the need to review existing infection control policy and practice.

Dr Jonathan Pearce, the Medical Research Council’s Head of Infections and Immunity, said: “This study sheds light on MRSA transmission within and between hospitals and the community, which could help strengthen infection prevention and control measures.”

The research has been published in Science Translational Medicine.

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