Medical Watch

Working to stop the spread of MRSA

The battle against antibiotic resistance bugs – experts say they have found the cocktail to stop the spread of MRSA in the hospital. The key is giving everyone – even those not infected — a double shield.

Dr. Mary Hayden, infectious disease physician at Rush University Medical Center: “There are tens of thousands of infections yearly that are considered health-care associated.”

It’s a challenge hospitals face every day – fighting infections, particularly methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA. Patients too ill to mount a defense, IVs, drains, catheters and wounds make places like the intensive care unit a breeding ground for bacteria. In the largest study of its kind appearing in this week’s New England Journal of Medicine, 74 intensive-care units across the country signed on to test infection prevention strategies. One method stood out.

Dr. Hayden: “The one that worked the best was this universal approach. Universally bathing everyone in the unit with antiseptic soap and using antibiotic ointment in the patients’ noses for five days for all patients.”

It starts with what looks like a baby wipe – a germ-killing soap used to routinely bathe patients. Step two, an ointment placed inside the nose, a common place MRSA hides out before traveling to other parts of the body.

Dr. Hayden: “The universal cleaning of the skin with the antiseptic soap and using the antibiotic ointment was associated with a 44% reduction in blood stream infections due to all blood stream pathogens and a 37% reduction in MRSA.”

Rush infectious disease physician Mary Hayden helped design the study and analyzed bacteria samples from study participants.

Dr. Hayden: “It’s a simple, straight-forward approach that appears to have really significant benefits.”

The next step is to track the use of these defense tools to make sure MRSA does not become resistant. So even after this major study – in a world of evolving bacteria — more research will continue.

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