Hand-washing helps control MRSA, but may not be enough

Although proper hand-washing procedures are the best way to reduce methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) while treating patients, a new study reveals hand hygiene itself is only one piece of the puzzle when combating the infections in hospitals.

The report, published by the Antimicrobial Resistance and Infection Control Journal, reviews the substantial amount of research done on the link between clinical hand hygiene and the reduction in MRSA infections while admitting that unanswered questions remain.

Study authors call for the need for more research into the association between hand-hygiene enhancement and MRSA-related surgical site infections, as well as the diminishing effect of hand hygiene on MRSA rates after reaching a threshold of about 40 percent compliance among medical staff.

Unanswered questions or not, hospitals around the country continue to step up efforts to improve hygienic procedures with the goal of driving down healthcare-acquired infection (HAI) rates, Becker's Hospital Review reports. For example, Novant Health's Thomasville Medical Center in North Carolina cut its MRSA infection rates by 53 percent as the result of implementing a hand-hygiene protocol. The center implemented an internal communical campaign that included screen savers and yard signs to educate hospital workers about the importance of proper hand-washing. Hand-hygiene compliance increased 49 percent to 99 percent as a result of the campaign, according to the article.  

Other research indicates that the types of surfaces, not just the cleanliness of them, play a role in preventing HAI rates. When copper surfaces were added to intensive care units in three test hospitals, FierceHealthcare previously reported, HAI infection rates dropped by as much as 60 percent, taking researchers by surprise.

For MRSA in particular, implementing infection risk-assessment procedures as well as an alert system in the event of an infection is an effective strategy to combat its spread in clinical settings.

Beyond the implications for patient health, it makes good business sense for hospitals to be ever-vigilant about reducing infection rates. One survey found that HAI rates are a major factor that patients consider when they decide where to receive care in a non-emergency situation.

To learn more:
- check out the study (.pdf)
- read the Becker's article