Hospital patients who are carriers of the superbug MRSA can significantly reduce their risk of future infection by following a six-month sanitizing regimen, according to new research.
Patients who faithfully adhered to the regimen experienced 44% fewer MRSA infections and 40% fewer infections of any kind compared to patients who were just given education about preventing a MRSA infection upon their discharge. The plan includes taking baths or showers with antiseptic soap, using antiseptic mouthwash and nasal antibiotics.
The research involved more than 2,100 adults who were identified as carrying MRSA, a deadly antimicrobial-resistant bacterium that infects an estimated 90,000 Americans a year and kills 20,000, according to figures from the University of Chicago Medicine’s MRSA Research Center. The findings were published Thursday in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Lead study author Dr. Susan Huang, professor in the infectious diseases division at the University of California at Irvine School of Medicine, felt the findings helped highlight how hospitals and clinicians could help patients lower their risk of MRSA re-infection by providing them with both the proper education and products to wash effectively.
“There’s this really important transition between doctor care in the hospital and doctor care in the outpatient setting,” Huang said.
More should be done to increase raise awareness among outpatient clinicians to make sure patients are properly washing their skin and wounds with the same care and frequency as they would receive in the hospital, she said.
The study found MRSA infections occurred in 6.3% of patients who followed the bathing regimen compared with 9.2% of patients who received only hygiene education.
Huang said patients who fully adhered to the bathing regimen for the entirety of the study period tended to have fewer co-existing medical conditions, had fewer medical devices, required less assistance to bathe and had previously experienced a MRSA infection.
“Having the experience is pretty motivating to not want to have another one,” Huang said.
Hospital patients carrying MRSA have a 1 in 4 risk of developing a serious infection a year after discharge, Huang said, and 1 in 10 develop a new MRSA infection.
Most of the previous studies on MRSA focused on how providers could prevent infection from occurring inside the hospital, but few have looked at how to reduce the threat once they leave.
“We can do something with a simple topical solution,” Huang said. “You do have to be good about it, but people can do it at home—you don’t have to have a healthcare provider do it for you—people can protect themselves and we should do whatever we can to afford them that opportunity.”
MRSA is one of most common types of antimicrobial-resistant bacteria. Overall, at least 2 million people a year develop antimicrobial-resistant infections in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, resulting in 23,000 deaths.
The Institute for Healthcare Improvement estimated more than 126,000 hospitalized patients are infected annually, causing stays to extend by an average 9.1 days, accounting for $20,000 in excess costs per patient. MRSA infections are estimated to cost the healthcare system more than $2.5 billion annually.
The study’s focus on reducing the risk of acquiring MRSA outside the healthcare setting is timely considering there are indications of a rising prevalence of MRSA acquired in community settings as hospital-acquired infections declined over the past decade.