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MRSA Infections Slashed in Hospital Study

Soap and ointment reduce bloodstream infections by more than 40% (May 29)

Using germ-killing soap and ointment on all intensive-care unit (ICU) patients can reduce bloodstream infections by up to 44% and can significantly reduce the presence of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) in ICUs, according to a new study funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The study tested three MRSA prevention strategies and found that using germ-killing soap and ointment on all ICU patients was more effective than other strategies.

The new findings were published in the May 29 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

“Patients in the ICU are already very sick, and the last thing they need to deal with is a preventable infection,” said Carolyn M. Clancy, MD, director of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). “This research has the potential to influence clinical practice significantly and to create a safer environment where patients can heal without harm.”

The REDUCE MRSA study was conducted from 2009 to 2011 and involved a total of 74,256 adult ICU patients. Researchers evaluated the effectiveness of three MRSA prevention practices: routine care; providing germ-killing soap and ointment only to patients with MRSA; and providing germ-killing soap and ointment to all ICU patients.

In addition to being effective at stopping the spread of MRSA in ICUs, the study found that the use of germ-killing soap and ointment on all ICU patients was effective for preventing infections caused by germs other than MRSA.

MRSA is resistant to first-line antibiotic treatments and is an important cause of illness and sometimes death, especially among patients who have had medical care. Three-quarters of S. aureus infections in hospital ICUs are considered to be methicillin-resistant.

“This study helps answer a long-standing debate in the medical field about whether we should tailor our efforts to prevent infection to specific pathogens, such as MRSA, or whether we should identify a high-risk patient group and give them all special treatment to prevent infection,” said lead author Susan Huang, MD, MPH. “The universal decolonization strategy was the most effective and the easiest to implement. It eliminates the need for screening ICU patients for MRSA.”

Sources: AHRQ; May 29, 2013; and NEJM; May 29, 2013.

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