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BACKGROUND: Hospital-acquired infection due to meticillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is common within intensive-care units. Single room or cohort isolation of infected or colonised patients is used to reduce spread, but its benefit over and above other contact precautions is not known. We aimed to assess the effectiveness of moving versus not moving infected or colonised patients in intensive-care units to prevent transmission of MRSA. METHODS: We undertook a prospective 1-year study in the intensive-care units of two teaching hospitals. Admission and weekly screens were used to ascertain the incidence of MRSA colonisation. In the middle 6 months, MRSA-positive patients were not moved to a single room or cohort nursed unless they were carrying other multiresistant or notifiable pathogens. Standard precautions were practised throughout. Hand hygiene was encouraged and compliance audited. FINDINGS: Patients' characteristics and MRSA acquisition rates were similar in the periods when patients were moved and not moved. The crude (unadjusted) Cox proportional-hazards model showed no evidence of increased transmission during the non-move phase (0.73 [95% CI 0.49-1.10], p=0.94 one-sided). There were no changes in transmission of any particular strain of MRSA nor in handwashing frequency between management phases. INTERPRETATION: Moving MRSA-positive patients into single rooms or cohorted bays does not reduce crossinfection. Because transfer and isolation of critically ill patients in single rooms carries potential risks, our findings suggest that re-evaluation of isolation policies is required in intensive-care units where MRSA is endemic, and that more effective means of preventing spread of MRSA in such settings need to be found.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





295 - 304


Adult, Aged, Cross Infection, Female, Humans, Infection Control, Intensive Care Units, Male, Methicillin Resistance, Middle Aged, Patient Isolation, Staphylococcal Infections, Staphylococcus aureus, Transportation of Patients