When are the hands of healthcare workers positive for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus?
Hand hygiene is a key component in reducing infection. There are few reports on the prevalence of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) on healthcare workers' (HCWs') hands. The aim of this study was to establish whether HCWs' fingertips were contaminated with MRSA in a clinical hospital setting. The study was conducted in an acute tertiary referral hospital on four MRSA wards that were part of a larger research study on MRSA epidemiology and four other wards not included in the study. The fingertips from all categories of 523 HCWs were sampled on 822 occasions by the imprinting of fingertips on MRSA chromogenic agar plates. The type of hand hygiene agent used, if any, and the immediate prior activity of the HCW were recorded. Overall, 38/822 (5%) fingertips from 523 HCWs were MRSA-positive; 12/194 (6%) after clinical contact, 10/138 (10%) after contact with the patient's environment and 15/346 (4%) after no specific contact. MRSA was recovered on 2/61 (3%) occasions after use of alcohol hand rub, 2/35 (6%) after 4% chlorhexidine detergent, 7/210 (3%) hand washing with soap and water, and 27/493 (5%) when no hand hygiene had been performed. MRSA was recovered from HCWs on seven of the eight wards. MRSA was more frequently present on fingertips on the four non-study wards vs the four MRSA study wards [18/250 (7%), 3/201 (1%), respectively; P<=0.004]. The isolation of MRSA from HCWs' fingertips, including after hand hygiene, indicates that more educational programmes are necessary to improve the quality of hand hygiene to prevent transmission of MRSA.