Prevalence of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) nasal colonization among dental professionals

Yogesh Reddy, The University of Texas School of Public Health


Background. MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) is a multi-drug resistant bacterium that is quite prevalent in social environments where close person-to-person contact and crowding are an issue. In dental settings, the likelihood of transmission of MRSA may be higher than among other healthcare practitioners because of the close proximity between a patient's nose (where MRSA colonizes) and the field of procedure (the mouth) to the dental professional. Objective. To estimate the prevalence of MRSA nasal colonization among dental professionals (dentists and dental hygienists) in the Greater Houston Metropolitan Area, Texas, and analyze its associations with demographic, professional and personal protective equipment-related variables. Methods. 800 dental professionals (400 dentists and 400 dental hygienists) were randomly selected in the Greater Houston Metropolitan Area. Multiple waves of nasal swab kits and a self-administered questionnaire were mailed to increase the response rate of the study population. The swabs were cultured on chromagenic agar growth medium and bacterial growth results were evaluated after 18 hours. Positively selected bacterial colonies were confirmed as MRSA by further culturing these isolated bacteria on blood agar plates. Associations between positive nasal swabs and self-reported professional practice patterns, personal protective equipment use and demographics were analyzed using multiple logistic regression. Main Results. Completed questionnaires and nasal swabs were received from 496 study participants (68%). Fourteen cultures were positive for MRSA (4.2% among dentists and 1.6% among dental hygienists, p=0.07). After adjusting for gender, dental hygienists had a significantly lower prevalence of nasal colonization of MRSA as compared to dentists (OR: 0.20, 95% CI: 0.05–0.75). No other significant associations or interactions were found. Conclusion. The prevalence of nasal colonization with MRSA among dentists is similar to that reported for health care workers in general, whereas prevalence among dental hygienists is only slightly above that of the general population (1%). Differences in practice patterns and use of personal protective equipment did not explain this difference in this study, and was possibly due either to residual confounding or unexplored risk factors. Increased prevalence of MRSA among dentists warrants further investigation as to the reason for the increased rate and to allow implementation of measures to avoid transmission and progression to disease.

Subject Area


Recommended Citation

Reddy, Yogesh, "Prevalence of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) nasal colonization among dental professionals" (2010). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI1479775.