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MRSA Infections Reduced by Universal ICU Decontamination: Study

Treating every patient in an intensive care unit (ICU) as though they may be contaminated with MRSA could lead to a significant reduction in the spread of the so-called superbug and other hospital infections, according to the findings of a new study.  

Researchers reported last week in the New England Journal of Medicine that decontaminating every patient in ICU with antiseptic wipes and antibiotic nose ointments reduced the risk of patients contracting methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) by 40%. One MRSA infection was prevented with every 54 patients treated.

The study involved a randomized trial including more than 70,000 patients in more than 40 U.S. hospital intensive care units (ICUs). The patients got one of three types of infection prevention treatments. One group just got MRSA screening and isolation of MRSA carriers. Another group received screening, isolation and decontamination procedures for those who tested positive for MRSA. The third group received universal decontamination without screening.

The findings suggest that universal screening was the most effective means of preventing infections. Decontaminating those who had undergone MRSA screening worked better than just isolating those patients, but not as well as universal decontamination, researchers found.

MRSA infections, which are resistant to treatment by penicillin-based antibiotics, have accounted for more than 60 percent of hospital staph infections in recent years.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that about 126,000 hospital MRSA infections occur each year, resulting in about 5,000 deaths. However, some researchers suggest that the number of deaths from MRSA in the U.S. is closer to 20,000 annually.

In recent years, there has been an increasing number of hospital infection lawsuits filed throughout the United States, as experts believe that most of these potentially life-threatening infections that develop in hospitals and medical centers can be prevented if steps are taken by the facility and staff.

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