Bathing patients in a common hospital soap, chlorhexidine, is equally effective in preventing the transmission of MRSA as isolation techniques, according to US researchers.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention currently recommend “contact precautions”, which include wearing gowns and gloves during patient visits, to avoid the spread of MRSA and other diseases in healthcare settings.
The authors of the new study challenged the practice of using contact precautions to avoid infections and may provide a possible alternative strategy that could improve patient care.
“These findings could hold great significance for finding a relatively inexpensive and effective way to prevent the spread of MRSA”
The researchers found fewer MRSA contamination events when patients were only bathed in chlorhexidine, compared to when patients were subject to contact precautions.
The study compared patient transmission and environmental contamination with MRSA in three intensive care units over a six-month period.
The researchers documented nine MRSA environmental contamination events during the period of time when the hospital ICU staff was using only contact precautions to prevent the spread of disease.
The researchers documented seven fewer MRSA contamination events during the time when the only precaution taken was bathing the patients in chlorhexidine.
Study author Dr James McKinnell, an infectious disease specialist at the Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute, said: “Our research indicated bathing patients may be as effective in preventing disease transmission as the current practice of limiting contact with patients.
“Further study is needed, but these findings could hold great significance for finding a relatively inexpensive and effective way to prevent the spread of potentially deadly hospital-acquired infections and improve patient care,” he said.
He added that patients placed in contact precautions spent less time with clinicians and may have a lower quality of care.
Unfortunately, he said, contact precautions have become so prevalent in US healthcare settings that over 15% of hospitalised patients were exposed to the physical isolation and risks associated with limited contact with healthcare workers.
The findings were presented at the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America meeting in Orlando, Florida, this week.