Automated System May Warn Hospitals of MRSA Outbreaks

Researchers find that sequence-based system is faster, more sensitive than traditional techniques

WEDNESDAY, Jan. 11 (HealthDay News) -- An automated, DNA sequence-based early warning system may detect hospital outbreaks of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) more quickly than traditional techniques, according to a study published Jan. 10 in Public Library of Science-Medicine.

Dag Harmsen, M.D., of the University of Muenster, Germany, and colleagues tested the effectiveness of spa typing, which types the S. aureus protein A (spa) gene, in combination with a new software program. The program automatically analyzes spa sequences, links them to a database integrated with epidemiological information and triggers an alarm if an outbreak is suspected.

The researchers found that the approach was more sensitive at identifying outbreaks than classical surveillance techniques. Their analysis showed that clonal alerts (spa typing and epidemiological data) were 100% sensitive and 95.2% specific. It also showed that frequency (epidemiological data only) and infection control professional alerts were 100% and 62.1% sensitive and 47.2% and 97.3% specific, respectively.

"The combination of medical informatics and molecular laboratory techniques could help clinicians prevent limited clusters of preventable MRSA from expanding into large-scale outbreaks," states the author of an accompanying editorial. "What is clear is that the days of infection outbreaks being detected solely by vigilant infectious-disease clinicians are over."

Two authors developed the software program and are partial owners of the company that sells it.

Full Text

Physician's Briefing