New approaches to reduce Staphylococcus aureus nosocomial infection rates: Treating S. aureus nasal carriage

T. M. Perl, J. E. Golub

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

134 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: Nosocomial infections cause significant patient morbidity and mortality. The 2.5 million nosocomial infections that occur each year cost the US healthcare system $5 million to $10 million. Staphylococcus aureus has long been recognized as an important pathogen in human disease and is the most common cause of nosocomial infections. OBJECTIVE: To describe the epidemiology of S. aureus nosocomial infections that are attributable to patients' endogenous colonization. DATA SOURCES: Review of the English- language literature and a MEDLINE search (as of September 1997). DATA SYNTHESIS: The ecologic niche of S. aureus is the anterior nares. The prevalence of S. aureus nasal carriage is approximately 20-25%, but varies among different populations, and is influenced by age, underlying illness, race, certain behaviors, and the environment in which the person lives or works. The link between S. aureus nasal carriage and development of subsequent S. aureus infections has been established in patients on hemodialysis, on continuous ambulatory peritoneal dialysis, and those undergoing surgery. S. aureus nasal carriers have a two- to tenfold increased risk of developing S. aureus surgical site or intravenous catheter infections. Thirty percent to 100% of S. aureus infections are due to endogenous flora and infecting strains were genetically identical to nasal strains. Three treatment strategies may eliminate nasal carriage: locally applied antibiotics or disinfectants, systemic antibiotics, and bacterial interference. Among these strategies, locally applied or systemic antibiotics are most commonly used. Nasal ointments or sprays and oral antibiotics have variable efficacy and their use frequently results in antimicrobial resistance among S. aureus strains. Of the commonly used agents, mupirocin (pseudomonic acid) ointment has been shown to be 97% effective in reducing S. aureus nasal carriage. However, resistance occurs when the ointment has been applied for a prolonged period over large surface areas. CONCLUSIONS: Given the importance of S. aureus nosocomial infections and the increased risk of S. aureus nasal carriage in patients with nosocomial infections, investigators need to study cost-effective strategies to prevent certain types of nosocomial infections or nosocomial infections that occur in specific settings. One potential strategy is to decrease S. aureus nasal carriage among certain patient populations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)S7-S16
JournalAnnals of Pharmacotherapy
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 1998


  • Nasal carriage
  • Nosocomial infection
  • Staphylococcus aureus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology (medical)


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