Controlling Staph Infections in the ICU

MRSA, or methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, is a nasty bacterium responsible for virulent, often life-threatening infections. It is one of the microbes hospitals work hard to eradicate, historically with mixed results. (See our blog, “Hospitals Try to Combat MRSA.”)

But a recent study funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) showed that use of germ-killing soap and ointment on all patients in the intensive care unit (ICU) significantly reduces bloodstream infections.

As reported on and published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the study tested three MRSA strategies.

As we blogged a couple of years ago, an estimated 1 in 20 people admitted to a hospital in the U.S. develops an infection. The cost of such calamity has been estimated at $33 billion, and has generated policy changes -– Medicare won’t foot the bill when inpatients are infected by preventable infections, such as those caused by dirty catheters and intravenous lines.

The HHS study occurred from 2009 to 2011. It involved 74 adult ICUs and more than 74,000 patients. The three MRSA prevention practices examined were:

  • routine care
  • providing germ-killing soap and ointment only to patients with MRSA
  • providing germ-killing soap and ointment to all ICU patients.

The third practice not only stopped the spread of MRSA in ICUs by as much as 44 percent, it prevented infections caused by germs other than MRSA.

As explained on ScienceDaily, MRSA is resistant to first-line antibiotic treatments. It’s nobody’s friend, but is especially dangerous to ill people-3 in 4 Staphylococcus aureus infections in hospital ICUs are considered methicillin-resistant.

Whenever you or a loved one is admitted to a hospital, ask if it has an infection-control checklist, and if so, ask to see it. If it lacks such a document, ask the hospital’s patient advocate what infection-control measures are being taken. If you or your loved one is admitted to the ICU, request to be disinfected twice daily with intranasal mupirocin and bathed daily with chlorhexidine cloths for the duration of the ICU stay. That was the protocol in the HHS study.

Make sure staff members wash their hands before they tend to you or your loved one, and ask when catheters and ventilators were last sanitized. For a broader understanding, read our newsletter, “A Safer, Healthier Hospital Stay.”

Patrick Malone & Associates, P.C. listed in Best Lawyers Rated by Super Lawyers Patrick A. Malone
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