MRSA: From a nosocomial pathogen to an omnipresent source of infection

In German hospitals, each year 132 000 patients contract infection with methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). For more than a decade, different countries have reported an increasing incidence of MRSA infections in the general population (“community associated” [CA-] MRSA). In the current issue of Deutsches Ärzteblatt International, Robin Köck from the Münster University Hospital and coauthors provide an overview of the epidemiological situation with regard to MRSA in Germany. They present the status quo in institutions within the healthcare sector, but also potential transmission routes in the general population (Dtsch Arztbl Int 2011; 108[45]: 761-7).

The total incidence of nosocomial MRSA infections in Germany has stabilized after a substantial rise in the 1990s. Important risk factors for the acquisition of CA-MRSA include travel to high-prevalence areas, such as the United States, and close contact with people who are infected with CA-MRSA. The identification of individual areas with an increased prevalence of CA-MRSA in Europe does, however, make the occurrence of CA-MRSA increasingly likely.

The zoonotic transmission of MRSA is increasingly gaining in importance. The pathogen is widespread in different species of livestock and easily transmits to humans who are in direct contact with those animals. In domestic animals and pets, MRSA has been confirmed in individual cases, but thus far no exact data are available for Germany.

The new potential transmission routes present new challenges for prevention and control of MRSA. Several national research consortia already contribute to this objective, for example on MRSA in animal reservoirs.

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