A study of Veterans Administration (VA) long-term care facilities (LTCFs) has found that active surveillance and use of contact precautions had no impact on methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) acquisition and infection.

The study, published today in Clinical Infectious Diseases, looked at more than 75,000 patient admissions at 74 VA LTCFs over a 5-year period and found that patients were no more likely to acquire MRSA in facilities that require healthcare workers to use gowns and gloves when caring for MRSA patients than in facilities that use standard precautions.

MRSA is a primary cause of healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) and has long been a problem in healthcare settings because it spreads easily between patients and healthcare workers. Patients who are colonized with MRSA can spread the bacteria by contaminating bed rails and linens, bathroom fixtures, and other parts of the hospital environment, and healthcare workers can compound the problem if they don’t clean their hands properly.

To reduce the spread of the pathogen in hospitals, both the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the VA recommend the use of gloves and gowns at acute care hospitals for all contact with residents colonized or infected with MRSA. Whether these contact precautions prevent patients in acute care from getting MRSA is debated.

While most LTCFs don’t require contact precautions for MRSA-infected or colonized patients, the VA, which launched a MRSA prevention initiative in 2007, has taken a more aggressive approach. From 2008 to 2013, the VA recommended contact precautions in LTCF patients who could not perform self-hygiene, then in 2013 extended that recommendation to all LTCF patients, while allowing for flexibility in implementation at a local level.

No impact on MRSA acquisition, infection rates

Credit: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)

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Photo credit:  Billy Hathorn [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], from Wikimedia Commons