Can you catch MRSA from your couch?

2 minute read

People whose households are contaminated with MRSA are twice as likely to develop recurrent infection


People whose households are contaminated with methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) are twice as likely to develop recurrent infection, according to a new study

Past research has shown that MRSA bounces around people living under the same roof, causing recurrent infections that can be life threatening in 5% to 10% of cases.

However, a US study published in JAMA Internal Medicine suggests that environmental contamination can create a reservoir for infection in the home, and thus play a role in recurrent MRSA.

Researchers swabbed 11 household items of 83 MRSA patients – who had an average age of 30 – over six months, including doorknobs, television remotes, light switches, couches, toys, computers, toilet seats and kitchen appliance handles. Nasal, throat and inguinal cultures were also collected from all consenting household members.

MRSA was found in 24.4% of the homes, and crucially, patients whose homes contained contaminated items were twice as likely to contract the disease again.

In contrast, positive swabs from other household members did not independently increase the risk of recurrent infection.

“Our findings suggest the importance of considering environmental contamination when designing interventions,” the authors wrote.

An accompanying editorial said the trial was a small preliminary study and it was too early to recommend MRSA patients decontaminate their homes.

Also, decontamination of an entire house may be impractical.

“Thinking of my own home inhabited by two messy children and two not-so-neat adults, I cannot imagine how we would even begin to decontaminate the couch,” the authors wrote.

JAMA Internal Med 2016; online 9 May

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