Do guidelines for the prevention and control of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus make a difference?
Many countries have national guidelines for the prevention and control of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) that are similar in approach. The evidence base for many recommendations is variable, and often, in the drafting of such guidelines, the evidence is either not analysed or not specifically reviewed. Guidelines usually recommend screening and early detection, hand hygiene, patient isolation or cohorting, and decolonization. Although many components of a prevention and control programme appear to be self-evident, e.g. patient isolation, the scientific base underpinning these is poor, and scientifically rigorous studies are required. Nonetheless, where measures, based on what evidence there is and on common sense, are implemented, and where the necessary resources are provided, MRSA can be controlled. In The Netherlands and in other low-prevalence countries, these measures have largely kept healthcare facilities MRSA-free. In MRSA-endemic countries, such as Spain and Ireland, national guidelines are often not fully implemented, owing to apparently inadequate resources or a lack of will. However, recent studies from France and Australia demonstrate what is possible in high-prevalence countries when best practice is effectively implemented, with potentially major benefits for patients, the respective health services, and society.