The use of germ-killing soap and ointment among all intensive-care unit (ICU) patients can reduce the rate of bloodstream infection by nearly 44 percent.

In particular, it can reduce the rate of infection caused by methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).

The study was the largest of its kind to date, including a total of 74 adult ICUs and 74,256 patients. It was carried out by a team of researchers at the University of California, Irvine, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute, Hospital Corporation of America (HCA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Patients who carry MRSA in their bodies are at a significantly increased risk of infection as well as infecting others.

The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, assessed the effectiveness of three different MRSA prevention practices:

  • Routine care
  • Providing antibacterial soap and ointment solely to patients with MRSA
  • Providing antibacterial soap and ointment to all ICU patients

They found that routine care made no difference to MRSA or bloodstream infection rates.

Patients with MRSA who were given germ-killing soap and ointment experienced a 23% drop bloodstream infections.

When antibacterial soap and ointment was given to all ICU patients, the number of MRSA infections went down by 37 percent, and bloodstream infections decreased by 44%.

A previous study by scientists from the University of California, Irvine School of Medicine found that using antimicrobial soap and ointment on all intensive-care patients significantly decreased bloodstream infections.

In addition The Lancet published a report indicating that handwashing with antibacterial soap could halve the incidence of diarrhea and lower respiratory infections in children in developing countries.

Written by Joseph Nordqvist