Study: Post-hospital MRSA infections cut by getting patients to use antiseptic

The study found that participants who followed the decolonization treatment completely showed a 44% reduction in MRSA infections and a 40% reduction in all infections. (Getty/gorodenkoff)

The incidence of MRSA infections among patients known to carry the bacteria on their body following hospitalizations was cut by 30% in a collection of California hospitals by getting patients to properly clean their skin and noses after discharge, according to a new study.

Published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the trial studied more than 2,000 patients discharged from the hospital. They were given either an educational binder with tips on how to prevent infections via hygiene or the binder along with a combination of over-the-counter antiseptic for bathing and showering, plus prescription antiseptic mouthwash and antibiotic nasal ointment.

The study, known as Project CLEAR (Changing Lives by Eradicating Antibiotic Resistance), was conducted in a collaboration among the University of California Irvine, Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute at Harbor-UCLA, and Rush University.

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It was funded by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) and also received support from the University of California Irvine Institute for Clinical and Translational Science, which was funded by a grant from the National Institutes of Health Clinical and Translational Science Award program.

RELATED: A Virginia VA hospital’s simple solution to prevent pneumonia? Toothbrushes

Overall, researchers reported a 30% reduction in MRSA infections and a 17% reduction in all infections. Participants who followed the decolonization treatment completely showed a 44% reduction in MRSA infections and a 40% reduction in all infections.

“The results of this study show that focused attention on removing MRSA can reduce infections and make a measurable difference in the lives of patients," AHRQ Director Gopal Khanna said in a statement. 

As far as the downsides, researchers said about 2% of patients reported mild side effects to the antiseptic for bathing and 1% reported mild side effects to the mouthwash or nasal ointment. About 40% of those who experienced side effects from a product opted to continue their use, the authors wrote.

RELATED: The surprisingly simple way Dignity Health is reducing surgical site infections

Of course, steps like practicing oral hygiene have been tied to reductions in infections in recent years, such as when a Virginia VA hospital found it could dramatically reduce its cases of pneumonia by getting patients to brush their teeth. Dignity Health found it could reduce surgical site infections by giving presurgery hygiene kits to patients. It's important to examine since hospital-acquired infections are a costly problem for healthcare

"Not enough is known about how to help patients avoid infections, including those patients who harbor highly antibiotic-resistant pathogens," said Susan Huang, M.D., medical director of epidemiology and infection prevention at the University of California Irvine, School of Medicine, in a statement. "This study represents an important step toward keeping patients safe."

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