Study shows bacteria strategy flawed

A new research study by the Mayo Clinic (Rochester, Minnesota) of the effect of a commonly used strategy to reduce the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in hospital intensive care units (ICU) shows that the strategy had no significant effect. The bacteria – methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and vancomycin-resistant enterococcus (VRE) – are resistant to common antibiotics and harder to treat if patients become infected. The findings appear in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The strategy includes screening patients admitted to ICUs for MRSA or VRE carriage – a procedure called “active surveillance“ (required by law in some states) – and use of barrier precautions (gloves and gowns) by healthcare providers during the care of patients carrying these bacteria.

“We were surprised by the 'no effect' result, especially given two facts. First, many patients who were not previously known to be carriers of MRSA or VRE were identified by active surveillance. Secondly, MRSA or VRE positive patients were cared for using barrier precautions for nearly their entire ICU stay,“ said Charles Huskins, MD, Mayo Clinic infectious diseases specialist and lead author of the article.