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The Nose – 'Ground Zero' for MRSA Colonization

A new study, published online ahead of print this month in the Journal of Clinical Microbiology, takes perhaps the closest look to date at sites of MRSA colonization on the human body.

This work, funded by 3M Healthcare, looked at MRSA carriage in 60 patients admitted to Rhode Island Hospital over a 1-year period. Skin swab samples were taken from the nose, groin, perineum, and axilla (armpit). Because all the patients in the group evaluated had been previously identified as MRSA carriers at one time or another, 88% of them were confirmed to be positive in at least one site during this study.

In this subset of carriers, it was found that an overwhelming majority (91%) were positive for MRSA in nasal samples. Furthermore, almost 25% had MRSA in the nose but not at any other body site sampled – making the nose the highest of any single anatomical colonization site.

Finally, positive samples from the nose were found to contain higher numbers of MRSA cells as compared to positive samples from the other body sites. These findings led the investigators to conclude that the nose has the highest sensitivity of any single site for determining MRSA colonization, and that the greater the numbers of MRSA isolated from the nose, the higher the chance of finding colonization at other body sites as well.

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