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June 29, 2017

Study: Hospital workers who wash can still spread MRSA to babies

Drexel researchers say hygiene measures significantly reduce MRSA risk, but not entirely

Efforts by hospital workers to keep their hands clean can help keep MRSA infections from spreading among babies in intensive care, but it doesn't nip the problem in the bud, according to new research out of Drexel University.

Neal Goldstein, an assistant research professor at Drexel's School of Public Health, led a team of researchers that examined how the environment of a neonatal intensive care unit can inadvertently spread MRSA– a staph infection – among newborn patients.

Basing the study out of Christiana Care's NICU in Newark, Delaware, researchers found that perfect handwashing can reduce the risk of MRSA spreading by 86 percent, but even under the best of conditions, MRSA can still spread to just less than one out of every 100 babies in intensive care.

"The biggest implication is that hospitals should not just rely upon hand hygiene alone for protecting patients from becoming colonized and possibly infected with a difficult-to-treat organism,” Goldstein said in a statement issued June 29. “Rather, infection control is a multi-pronged strategy. It can incorporate early detection and measures to mitigate spread that include possible decolonization or using an antibiotic to treat a patient even before infection.”

The study, published in Infection Control & Hospital Epidemiology, found that an infant is likely to come in contact with hospital workers about 250 times during an average nine-day NICU stay.

Along with keeping hands and hospital facilities clean, Goldstein suggested that parents, visitors and patients (excluding the little ones) can make a difference as well.

"We can follow hygiene procedures, use gowns or gloves as needed, keep a clean environment, not bring in possible fomites such as cellphones, watches or jewelry, and be a watchdog for the hospital, requesting that health care workers do hand hygiene if we don't see it being done," he said in the release.