Screening Swabs Surpass Traditional Risk Factors as Predictors of MRSA Bacteremia

Consideration to add empiric MRSA therapy with vancomycin is a common clinical dilemma. However, vancomycin overuse has important adverse events. MRSA colonization screening is commonly performed for infection control. Butler-Laporte, et al. (2018) hypothesized that in cases of S. aureus bacteremia, a score based on patient level factors and MRSA colonization could predict the risk of MRSA infection and inform the need for empiric coverage.

Using modern machine learning statistical methods (LASSO regression and random forests), the researchers designed a predictive score for MRSA infection based on patient level characteristics, and MRSA colonization as measured by screening done 30 days before infection (30-Day criteria), or at any time before infection (Ever-Positive criteria). Patient factors (age, sex, number of previous admissions, and other medical comorbidities) were obtained through electronic records.

With random forests, MRSA colonization largely surpassed all other factors in terms of accuracy and discriminatory power. Using LASSO regression, MRSA colonization was the only factor with MRSA infection predictive power with odds ratio of 10.3 (min: 5.99, max: 16.1) and 8.14 (min: 6.01, max: 14.8) for the 30-Day and Ever-Positive criteria, respectively. Further, patient comorbidities were not adequate predictors of MRSA colonization.

The researchers conclude that in an era of community-acquired MRSA, colonization status appears to be the only independent and reliable predictor of MRSA infection in cases of S. aureus bacteremia. A clinical approach based on a patient’s known MRSA colonization status and on local susceptibility patterns may be appropriate.

Reference: Butler-Laporte G, et al. Screening swabs surpass traditional risk factors as predictors of MRSA bacteremia. BMC Infectious Diseases. 2018;18:270