Bathing patients in a common hospital soap called chlorhexidine could be as effective as limiting contact with them as a way to limit spread of deadly hospital-acquired infections such as MRSA.

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Researchers suggest bathing patients with a common hospital soap may be as effective as limiting contact with them in reducing spread of hospital-acquired infections.

This is the conclusion of a new study presented this week at a meeting of the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America in Orlando, FL.

MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) and other hospital-acquired infections are a growing public health problem. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), on any given day, around 1 in 25 hospital patients in the US have at least one infection contracted in a health care setting.

The most recent CDC survey estimates that 75,000 hospital patients with hospital-acquired infections died during their hospitalization in 2011.

The CDC currently recommend a strategy based on “contact precautions” to reduce spread of hospital-acquired infections. This includes ensuring staff wear gowns and gloves when they visit patients.

The researchers behind the new study – including Dr. James McKinnell, an infectious disease specialist at the Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute (LA BioMed) – challenge this strategy and say there is another way that not only reduces infection spread but may also increase patient care.

In their study, Dr. McKinnell and colleagues compared the number of MRSA contaminations in patients subject to the CDC contact precautions with those who were bathed using the common hospital soap chlorhexidine. They found fewer MRSA contamination events in the group that was bathed using chlorhexidine.

The study took place in three intensive care units (ICUs) over 6 months. During this time, there were nine MRSA environmental contamination events when the ICU staff used only the CDC contact precautions approach, compared with seven events when the only precaution was bathing the patients using chlorhexidine.

Dr. McKinnell argues that patients subject to the contact precautions protocol spend less time with their doctors and may receive a lower quality of care.

He is concerned that the contact precautions approach is now so widespread that over 15% of hospital patients have limited contact with health care workers, exposing them to risks associated with isolation.

Dr. McKinnell says while the findings need to be confirmed with further studies, they could “hold great significance for finding a relatively inexpensive and effective way to prevent the spread of potentially deadly hospital-acquired infections and improve patient care.”

Meanwhile, Medical News Today recently learned how a simple strategy could revive first-line antibiotics. Using a computer model, researchers at Duke University in Durham, NC, identified a simple way to optimize dosing that could restore effectiveness of first-line antibiotics and preserve last-resort antibiotics in the fight against drug-resistant bacteria.