Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus in hospitals and the community: stealth dynamics and control catastrophes.
Cooper BS., Medley GF., Stone SP., Kibbler CC., Cookson BD., Roberts JA., Duckworth G., Lai R., Ebrahim S.
Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) represents a serious threat to the health of hospitalized patients. Attempts to reduce the spread of MRSA have largely depended on hospital hygiene and patient isolation. These measures have met with mixed success: although some countries have almost eliminated MRSA or remained largely free of the organism, others have seen substantial increases despite rigorous control policies. We use a mathematical model to show how these increases can be explained by considering both hospital and community reservoirs of MRSA colonization. We show how the timing of the intervention, the level of resource provision, and chance combine to determine whether control measures succeed or fail. We find that even control measures able to repeatedly prevent sustained outbreaks in the short-term can result in long-term control failure resulting from gradual increases in the community reservoir. If resources do not scale with MRSA prevalence, isolation policies can fail "catastrophically."