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Daily Bathing of Elderly Sharply Reduces MRSA Infections

Hands with arthritis (NIH)

(National Institutes of Health)

A study at an Ontario geriatric facility shows the bathing each day of acute care patients with antiseptic cloths resulted in a sustained decrease in methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) incidence among those patients. The team led by Heather Candon, an infection prevention and control practitioner at Baycrest, a Toronto geriatric care facility, presented its findings in a poster session at a meeting of the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology  in San Antonio, Texas.

MRSA is a type of staph bacteria that does not respond to some antibiotics commonly used to treat staph infections. MRSA infections often occur in people who are in the hospital or other health care setting.

The Baycrest team used disposable cloths containing chlorhexidine gluconate (CHG), an antimicrobial compound that reduces organisms on a patient’s skin and leaves an antimicrobial residue that lasts for up to six hours. They tested this method on patients in the facility’s 27-bed acute care unit, for patients with complex sub-acute and chronic conditions that require urgent medical care.

Previous reports indicated that bathing with CHG cloths reduced the risk of infections in patients undergoing surgery. Candon and her team was not aware, however, of studies of the technique’s effectiveness on MRSA transmission in a geriatric setting. Prior to the study, the acute care facility had a transmission rate of 4.99 cases per 1,000 patient days.

After the daily use of CHG cloths, which became a standard of care, that rate was reduced to 0.88 cases per 1,000 patient days, an 82 percent reduction. The researchers say it was an isolated intervention, with no other changes in practice on the unit.

Baycrest says it already screens each patient on admission for the MRSA bacteria colonized in patients — where the bacteria is present in the body, but not causing infections. Candon notes that the impetus for the daily bathing of patients came about after determining that 21 percent of the facility’s MRSA transmission was occurring in the acute care unit.

“Because patients who are colonized with MRSA have a much greater chance of developing a MRSA infection, we knew we needed to intervene to stop transmission and prevent infection,” says Candon. “Use of the CHG cloths proved to be a very effective way to achieve and sustain this reduction.”

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