Zero tolerance for healthcare-associated MRSA bacteraemia: Is it realistic?

M. Estée Török*, Simon R. Harris, Edward J.P. Cartwright, Kathy E. Raven, Nicholas M. Brown, Michael E.D. Allison, Daniel Greaves, Michael A. Quail, Direk Limmathurotsakul, Matthew T.G. Holden, Julian Parkhill, Sharon Peacock

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)


Background: The term 'zero tolerance' has recently been applied to healthcare-associated infections, implying that such events are always preventable. This may not be the case for healthcare-associated infections such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) bacteraemia. Methods:We combined information froman epidemiological investigation and bacterialwhole-genome sequencing to evaluate a cluster of five MRSA bacteraemia episodes in four patients in a specialist hepatology unit. Results: The five MRSA bacteraemia isolates were highly related bymultilocus sequence type (ST) (four isolates were ST22 and one isolate was a single-locus variant, ST2046). Whole-genome sequencing demonstrated unequivocally that the bacteraemia cases were unrelated. Placing the MRSA bacteraemia isolates within a local and global phylogenetic tree of MRSA ST22 genomes demonstrated that the five bacteraemia isolates were highly diverse. This was consistent with the acquisition and importation of MRSA from the wider referral network. Analysis of MRSA carriage and disease in patients within the hepatology service demonstrated a higher risk of both initial MRSA acquisition compared with the nephrology service and a higher risk of progression from MRSA carriage to bacteraemia, compared with patients in nephrology or geriatric services. A root cause analysis failed to reveal any mechanism by which three of five MRSA bacteraemia episodes could have been prevented. Conclusions: This study illustrates the complex nature of MRSA carriage and bacteraemia in patients in a specialized hepatology unit. Despite numerous ongoing interventions to preventMRSA bacteraemia in healthcare settings, these are unlikely to result in a zero incidence in referral centres that treat highly complex patients.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberdku128
Pages (from-to)2238-2245
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2014


  • Methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus
  • Outbreak
  • Whole-genome sequencing


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