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1.  MRSA carriage among healthcare workers in non-outbreak settings in Europe and the United States: a systematic review 
BMC Infectious Diseases  2014;14:363.
A recent review estimated prevalence of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) in healthcare workers (HCWs) to be 4.6%. However, MRSA carriage in HCWs in non-outbreak settings is thought to be higher than in an outbreak situation, due to increased hygiene awareness in outbreaks, but valid data are missing. The goals of this paper are to summarise the prevalence of MRSA carriage amongst HCWs in non-outbreak situations and to identify occupational groups in healthcare services associated with a higher risk of MRSA colonisation.
A systematic search for literature was conducted in the MEDLINE and EMBASE databases. The methodological quality of the studies was assessed using seven criteria. Pooled prevalence rates were calculated. Pooled effect estimates were identified in a meta-analysis.
31 studies were included in this review. The pooled MRSA colonisation rate was 1.8% (95% confidence interval [CI], 1.34%-2.50%). The rate increased to 4.4% (95% CI, 3.98%-4.88%) when one study from the Netherlands was excluded. The pooled MRSA rate was highest in nursing staff (6.9%). Nursing staff had an odds ratio of 1.72 (95% CI, 1.07-2.77) when compared with medical staff and an odds ratio of 2.58 (95%, 1.83-3.66) when compared with other healthcare staff. Seven studies were assessed as being of high quality. The pooled MRSA prevalence in high quality studies was 1.1% or 5.4% if the one large study from the Netherlands is not considered. The pooled prevalence in studies of moderate quality was 4.0%.
MRSA prevalence among HCWs in non-outbreak settings was no higher than carriage rates estimated for outbreaks. Our estimate is in the lower half of the range of the published MRSA rates in the endemic setting. Our findings demonstrate that nursing staff have an increased risk for MRSA colonisation. In order to confirm this finding, more studies are needed, including healthcare professionals with varying degrees of exposure to MRSA. In order to reduce misclassification bias, standardisation of HCWs screening is warranted.
PMCID: PMC4094410  PMID: 24996225
MRSA; Colonisation; Healthcare worker
2.  Specificity of a whole blood IGRA in German nursing students 
BMC Infectious Diseases  2011;11:245.
Interferon-gamma release assays (IGRA) are used for tuberculosis (TB) screening in healthcare workers (HCWs). However, data on specificity of IGRA in serial testing of HCWs is sparse. Therefore the specificity and the negative predictive value of the IGRA - QuantiFERON-TB Gold In-Tube (QFT) - in German nursing students was investigated.
194 nursing students at the start of their professional career were tested with the QFT. 14 nursing students were excluded from the specificity analysis, due to exposure to mycobacterium tuberculosis. Two of these subjects were QFT- positive. None of them developed disease during the year of follow-up. A study group of 180 students, all with very low risk of prior TB infection, remained in the specificity analysis. Subjects were monitored for at least two years with respect to the development of active TB disease. IGRA was performed at the start of the training and after one year.
The mean age of the study group (n = 180) was 23 years (range 18-53) with 70.9% female and 99.4% German born. The specificity of QFT was 98.9% (178/180; 95% CI 0.96-0.99); lowering the cut-off from 0.35 IU/ml to 0.1 IU/ml would have decreased specificity only slightly to 97.8% (176/180; 95% CI 0.94-0.99). Of the 154 nursing students available for re-testing, one student who initially scored positive reverted to negative, and one student initially negative converted to positive. None of the monitored group with initially negative QFT results developed TB disease, indicating a high negative predictive value of the IGRA in this population.
Following our data, QFT can serve as an effective tool in pre-employment TB screenings for HCWs. As its negative results were stable over time, specificity of the QFT in serial testing of HCWs is high. As the risk of acquiring TB infection in the German healthcare system appears to be low, our data supports the recommendation of performing TB screening only in those HCWs with known contact to TB patients or infectious materials.
PMCID: PMC3189894  PMID: 21929799
3.  The occupational risk of Helicobacter pylori infection among gastroenterologists and their assistants 
BMC Infectious Diseases  2011;11:154.
Helicobacter pylori is a widely spread bacterium that mainly inhabits the gastric mucosa and can lead to serious illnesses such as peptic ulcer disease, gastric carcinoma and gastric MALT lymphoma. The oral-oral route seems to be the main transmission route. The fact that endoscopes are contaminated after being used to perform a gastroscopy leads one to question whether gastroenterologists and endoscopy nurses and assistants run a higher risk of infection.
A systematic search for literature was conducted in the MEDLINE and EMBASE databases and further publications were found in reference lists of relevant articles. Epidemiological studies on the occupational exposure of endoscopy personnel were collected and their quality was assessed. Pooled effect estimates were identified in a meta-analysis.
Of the 24 studies included in the analysis, 15 were considered to be methodologically good. Of these 15 studies, eight single studies showed a statistically significant increased risk of infection for gastroenterologists, and five for their assistants. Meta-analysis across all methodologically good studies found a statistically significant risk of 1.6 (95%CI 1.3-2.0) for doctors. The pooled effect estimates also indicated a statistically significant risk of Helicobacter pylori infection (RR 1.4; 95%CI 1.1-1.8) for assistants too.
When studies are stratified by medical and non-medical control groups, statistically significant risks can only be recognised in the comparison with non-medical controls.
In summary, our results demonstrated an increased risk of Helicobacter pylori infection among gastroenterological personnel. However, the choice of control group is important for making a valid assessment of occupational exposure risks.
PMCID: PMC3123572  PMID: 21627778
4.  MRSA prevalence in european healthcare settings: a review 
BMC Infectious Diseases  2011;11:138.
During the past two decades, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) has become increasingly common as a source of nosocomial infections. Most studies of MRSA surveillance were performed during outbreaks, so that results are not applicable to settings in which MRSA is endemic. This paper gives an overview of MRSA prevalence in hospitals and other healthcare institutions in non-outbreak situations in Western Europe.
A keyword search was conducted in the Medline database (2000 through June 2010). Titles and abstracts were screened to identify studies on MRSA prevalence in patients in non-outbreak situations in European healthcare facilities. Each study was assessed using seven quality criteria (outcome definition, time unit, target population, participants, observer bias, screening procedure, swabbing sites) and categorized as 'good', 'fair', or 'poor'.
31 observational studies were included in the review. Four of the studies were of good quality. Surveillance screening of MRSA was performed in long-term care (11 studies) and acute care (20 studies). Prevalence rates varied over a wide range, from less than 1% to greater than 20%. Prevalence in the acute care and long-term care settings was comparable. The prevalence of MRSA was expressed in various ways - the percentage of MRSA among patients (range between 1% and 24%), the percentage of MRSA among S. aureus isolates (range between 5% and 54%), and as the prevalence density (range between 0.4 and 4 MRSA cases per 1,000 patient days). The screening policy differed with respect to time points (on admission or during hospital stay), selection criteria (all admissions or patients at high risk for MRSA) and anatomical sampling sites.
This review underlines the methodological differences between studies of MRSA surveillance. For comparisons between different healthcare settings, surveillance methods and outcome calculations should be standardized.
PMCID: PMC3128047  PMID: 21599908
5.  Predictors of persistently positive Mycobacterium-tuberculosis-specific interferon-gamma responses in the serial testing of health care workers 
BMC Infectious Diseases  2010;10:220.
Data on the performance of Mycobacterium-tuberculosis-specific interferon-(IFN)-γ release assays (IGRAs) in the serial testing of health care workers (HCWs) is limited. The objective of the present study was to determine the frequency of IGRA conversions and reversions and to identify predictors of persistent IGRA positivity among serially tested German HCWs in the absence of recent extensive tuberculosis (TB) exposure.
In this observational cohort-study HCWs were prospectively recruited within occupational safety and health measures and underwent a tuberculin skin test (TST) and the IGRA QuantiFERON®-TB Gold In-Tube (QFT-GIT) at baseline. The QFT-GIT was repeated 18 weeks later in the median. QFT-GIT conversions (and reversions) were defined as baseline IFN-γ < 0.35 IU/ml and follow-up IFN-γ ≥ 0.35 IU/ml (and vice versa). Predictors of persistently positive QFT-GIT results were calculated by logistic regression analysis.
In total, 18 (9.9%) and 15 (8.2%) of 182 analyzed HCWs were QFT-GIT-positive at baseline and at follow-up, respectively. We observed a strong overall agreement between baseline and follow-up QFT-GIT results (κ = 0.70). Reversions (6/18, 33.3%) occurred more frequently than conversions (3/162, 1.9%). Age and positive prior and recent TST results independently predicted persistent QFT-GIT positivity. Furthermore, the chance of having persistently positive QFT-GIT results raised about 3% with each additional 0.1 IU/ml increase in the baseline IFN-γ response (adjusted odds ratio 1.03, 95% confidence interval 1.01-1.04). No active TB cases were detected within an observational period of more than two years.
The QFT-GIT's utility for the application in serial testing was limited by a substantial proportion of reversions. This shortcoming could be overcome by the implementation of a borderline zone for the interpretation of QFT-GIT results. However, further studies are needed to clearly define the within-subject variability of the QFT-GIT and to confirm that increasing age, concordantly positive TST results, and the extend of baseline IFN-γ responses may predict the persistence of QFT-GIT positivity over time in serially tested HCWs with only a low or medium TB screening risk in a TB low-incidence setting.
PMCID: PMC2916913  PMID: 20653946
6.  Risk of latent TB infection in individuals employed in the healthcare sector in Germany: a multicentre prevalence study 
BMC Infectious Diseases  2010;10:107.
Healthcare workers are still recognised as a high-risk group for latent TB infection (LTBI). Therefore, the screening of people employed in the healthcare sector for active and LTBI is fundamental to infection control programmes in German hospitals. It was the aim of the study to determine the prevalence and putative risk factors of LTBI.
We tested 2028 employees in the healthcare sector with the QuantiFERON-Gold In-tube (QFT-IT) test between December 2005 and May 2009, either in the course of contact tracing or in serial testing of TB high-risk groups following German OSH legislation.
A positive IGRA was found in 9.9% of the healthcare workers (HCWs). Nurses and physicians showed similar prevalence rates (9.7% to 9.6%). Analysed by occupational group, the highest prevalence was found in administration staff and ancillary nursing staff (17.4% and 16.7%). None of the individuals in the trainee group showed a positive IGRA result. In the different workplaces the observed prevalence was 14.7% in administration, 12.0% in geriatric care, 14.2% in technicians (radiology, laboratory and pathology), 6.5% in admission ward staff and 8.3% in the staff of pulmonary/infectious disease wards. Putative risk factors for LTBI were age (>55 years: OR14.7, 95% CI 5.1-42.1), being foreign-born (OR 1.99, 95% CI 1.4-2.8), TB in the individual's own history (OR 4.96, 95% CI 1.99-12.3) and previous positive TST results (OR 3.5, 95% CI 2.4-4.98). We observed no statistically significant association with gender, BCG vaccination, workplace or profession.
The prevalence of LTBI in low-incidence countries depends on age. We found no positive IGRA results among trainees in the healthcare sector. Incidence studies are needed to assess the infection risk. Pre-employment screening might be helpful in this endeavour.
PMCID: PMC2877045  PMID: 20429957
7.  Seasonal influenza risk in hospital healthcare workers is more strongly associated with household than occupational exposures: results from a prospective cohort study in Berlin, Germany, 2006/07 
Influenza immunisation for healthcare workers is encouraged to protect their often vulnerable patients but also due to a perceived higher risk for influenza. We aimed to compare the risk of influenza infection in healthcare workers in acute hospital care with that in non-healthcare workers over the same season.
We conducted a prospective, multicentre cohort study during the 2006/07 influenza season in Berlin, Germany. Recruited participants gave serum samples before and after the season, and completed questionnaires to determine their relevant exposures and possible confounding factors. The main outcome measure was serologically confirmed influenza infection (SCII), defined as a fourfold or greater rise in haemagglutination inhibition antibody titres to a circulating strain of influenza (with post-season titre at least 1:40).
Weekly mobile phone text messages were used to prompt participants to report respiratory illnesses during the influenza season. A logistic regression model was used to assess the influence of potential risk factors.
We recruited 250 hospital healthcare workers (mean age 35.7 years) and 486 non-healthcare workers (mean age 39.2 years) from administrative centres, blood donors and colleges.
Overall SCII attack rate was 10.6%. Being a healthcare worker was not a risk factor for SCII (relative risk 1.1, p = 0.70). The final multivariate model had three significant factors: living with children (odds ratio [OR] 3.7, p = 0.005), immunization (OR 0.50, p = 0.02), and - among persons living in households without children - ownership of a car (OR 3.0, p = 0.02). Living with three or more children (OR 13.8, p < 0.01) was a greater risk than living with one or two children (OR 5.3, p = 0.02). 30% of participants with SCII reported no respiratory illness. Healthcare workers were at slightly higher risk of reporting any respiratory infection than controls (adjusted OR 1.3, p = 0.04, n = 850).
Our results suggest that healthcare workers in hospitals do not have a higher risk of influenza than non-healthcare workers, although their risk of any respiratory infection is slightly raised. Household contacts seem to be more important than exposure to patients. Car ownership is a surprise finding which needs further exploration. Asymptomatic infections are common, accounting for around a third of serologically confirmed infections.
PMCID: PMC2836320  PMID: 20067628

Results 1-7 (7)