Study Refutes Need for Superbug Tests

By Mike Huckman, CNBC Pharmaceutical Reporter

Giving everyone who's admitted to a hospital a quick test for the so-called "Superbug" doesn't significantly cut the number of infections and isn't cost-effective.

MRSA Superbug Tests

That's the conclusion of the biggest study yet that's just been published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The journal also says in an editorial that hospitals can control the potentially fatal staph infections by using basic sanitary measures rather than "expensive" tests.

Researchers looked at nearly 22-thousand patients at a Swiss hospital who either got screened for the bacterial infection commonly known as MRSA or who used standard infection controls like hand gel.  And they report that the universal testing did not reduce the incidence of MRSA infections.

Cepheid and Becton Dickinson make MRSA tests which can give results much faster than the one used in the study and a few other companies are working on next-generation screening systems.

Cepheid CEO John Bishop told CNBC, "To say that it's (the MRSA test) not effective is an overstatement."  Mr. Bishop said that MRSA is much less prevalent in Switzerland than in the U.S., so he argues it is much more difficult to show a reduction in infection rates in Switzerland than it is here.  

In an email, Becton says this is just one "data point" and that many other studies have shown that testing for MRSA saves lives and money.