Study-Hospital Precautions Do Nothing to Stop Infections

Study says hospital gowns and gloves don't stop infections

A new study has emerged that states hospital precautions, such as wearing gowns and gloves, do nothing to help stop the spread of potentially deadly infections from VRE.  The study out of University of Maryland School of Medicine was published in the medical journal JAMA. The researchers who conducted the study say that frequent and thorough hand washing is a better way of stopping such infections from being spread.

Strains of bacteria such as MRSA and VRE are of particular concern to doctors because they are resistant to antibiotics. Like all bacteria, they have the potential to mutate and become even stronger after adapting to antibiotics. In some patients, antibiotics completely fail and the bacterial infection becomes fatal.

The study was large and controlled, involving 26,000 patients at hospitals all over the country. Half of the participants in the study put on gloves and gowns when having contact with every patient, while the other half did so only when coming into contact with patients who had active infections. At the end of the study, there was no statistically significant difference in the number of infections seen. The participants were swabbed and tested for both MRSA and VRE, also known as vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus.

The study researchers did point out, though, that there was a 40% decline in MRSA infections in the group that adopted the practice of wearing gloves and gowns when caring for all patients. There was no difference in the incidence of VRE infections. Lead researcher Dr. Anthony Harris says that the results could still mean that always wearing gowns and gloves is a good idea. “For individual ICUs where [hospital officials] know what the rate of MRSA infections are among ICU patients, or know in the surrounding state what the prevalence of MRSA is, the short answer is yes, we think they should use data like this to make the decision about universal contact precautions.”

Each year, 23,000 people die from bacteria that have become resistant to antibiotics. For this reason, the study results are quite alarming. If suiting up with gowns and gloves does not stop the potentially deadly VRE infection from spreading, what else can be done to help stem the proliferation of such infections?

Particularly disturbing is the fact that the current sterilization methods such as the drugs used to fight these bacteria can actually encourage them to mutate and grow stronger. There is concern that doctors could begin to refuse to treat certain patients for fear of contracting or spreading the bugs.

Just last week, the CDC took an additional step against these so-called “superbugs” by creating a way to classify them according to the level of threat they pose to patients. Dr. Thomas Friedan who is the Director of the CDC, says they have finally been able to classify these superbugs after years of warnings. This new classification system is a way to further emphasize how dangerous these germs can be. “For the first time, we have a snapshot of antimicrobial threats that have the most impact on human health,” he says.

A new study has been published that proves hospital precautions do nothing to stop certain infections, but hope can be found in the fact that hand washing still provides an excellent barrier to disease.

By: Rebecca Savastio

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