Whole-genome sequencing for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) outbreak investigation in a neonatal intensive care unit

Theresa Madigan, Scott A. Cunningham, Robin Patel, Kerryl E. Greenwood-Quaintance, Jean E. Barth, Priya Sampathkumar, Nicolynn C. Cole, Peggy C. Kohner, Christopher E. Colby, Garth F. Asay, Jennifer L. Fang, Christine A. Baker, Angela L. Heinrich, Kelly A. Fjerstad, Maria J. Lujero, Nicholas Chia, Patricio R. Jeraldo, Heidi Nelson, W. Charles Huskins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Objective To evaluate whole-genome sequencing (WGS) as a molecular typing tool for MRSA outbreak investigation.Design Investigation of MRSA colonization/infection in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) over 3 years (2014-2017).Setting Single-center level IV NICU.Patients NICU infants and healthcare workers (HCWs).Methods Infants were screened for MRSA using a swab of the anterior nares, axilla, and groin, initially by targeted (ring) screening, and later by universal weekly screening. Clinical cultures were collected as indicated. HCWs were screened once using swabs of the anterior nares. MRSA isolates were typed using WGS with core-genome multilocus sequence typing (cgMLST) analysis and by pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE). Colonized and infected infants and HCWs were decolonized. Control strategies included reinforcement of hand hygiene, use of contact precautions, cohorting, enhanced environmental cleaning, and remodeling of the NICU.Results We identified 64 MRSA-positive infants: 53 (83%) by screening and 11 (17%) by clinical cultures. Of 85 screened HCWs, 5 (6%) were MRSA positive. WGS of MRSA isolates identified 2 large clusters (WGS groups 1 and 2), 1 small cluster (WGS group 3), and 8 unrelated isolates. PFGE failed to distinguish WGS group 2 and 3 isolates. WGS groups 1 and 2 were codistributed over time. HCW MRSA isolates were primarily in WGS group 1. New infant MRSA cases declined after implementation of the control interventions.Conclusion We identified 2 contemporaneous MRSA outbreaks alongside sporadic cases in a NICU. WGS was used to determine strain relatedness at a higher resolution than PFGE and was useful in guiding efforts to control MRSA transmission.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1412-1418
Number of pages7
JournalInfection Control and Hospital Epidemiology
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Infectious Diseases


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