A microbiologist works with tubes of bacteria samples in an antimicrobial resistance and characterization lab within the Infectious Disease Laboratory at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. (AP Photo/David Goldman) A microbiologist works with tubes of bacteria samples in an antimicrobial resistance and characterization lab within the Infectious Disease Laboratory at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

Cleaning routine shows promise in curbing superbug infection

Think of it as decontaminating yourself. Hospitalized patients who harbour certain superbugs can cut their risk of developing full-blown infections if they swab medicated goo in their nose and use special soap and mouthwash for six months after going home, a study found.

It’s a low-tech approach to a big problem: About 5 per cent of patients have MRSA — antibiotic-resistant Staph bacteria — lurking on their skin or in their noses, putting them at high risk of developing an infection while recovering from an illness or an operation. These can affect the skin, heart, brain, lungs, bones and joints, and most of them land people back in the hospital.

The hygiene steps that researchers tested trimmed that risk by nearly one third.

“It’s a very simple solution. You don’t have to swallow a medicine, you just have to clean the outside of your body for a little while longer,” said Dr. Susan Huang of the University of California Irvine School of Medicine. She led the federally funded study, published Wednesday by the New England Journal of Medicine.

A lot has been done to curb infections in hospitals and attention is shifting to what happens after patients leave. Nine states — California, Washington, Nevada, Minnesota, Illinois, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, Maine and New Jersey — require that hospitals test the most vulnerable patients, such as those in intensive care, for MRSA. Many other places do it voluntarily.

The study involved more than 2,000 patients at hospitals in southern California who were found to carry MRSA, or methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus bacteria. All were given information on ways to avoid infection, and half also got special products — mouthwash, liquid soap containing an antiseptic and an antibiotic ointment to swab in the nose. They were told to use these Monday through Friday, every other week for six months.

A year later, 6 per cent of those in the deep-clean group had developed a MRSA infection versus 9 per cent of the others. They also had fewer infections from other germs. Doctors estimated that 25 to 30 people would need to be treated to prevent one case.

There were no serious side effects 44 people had dry or irritated skin, and most continued using the products despite that.

Heather Avizius was one. The 41-year-old nanny has had MRSA infections in the past and entered the study after severe complications of Crohn’s disease landed her in St. Jude Medical Center in Fullerton, California, eight years ago.

“I took the regimen very, very seriously” and has not had MRSA since, she said. “I felt cleaner and safer” and less worried about spreading germs to her children, she said.

Nearly half dropped out of the study early or couldn’t be found for follow-up.

“Many people may think ‘I feel fine, I don’t really need to do this,”’ said Dr. John Jernigan of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But “the risk doesn’t end once you go home.”

Federal grants paid for the products. They would cost $150 to $200 for six months otherwise, Huang said. The antiseptic soap was a 4 per cent chlorhexidine solution sold in many drugstores.

Other soaps, even ones labeled antibacterial, “may not have the active ingredients to remove MRSA,” said Dr. Robert Weinstein, another study leader and an infections specialist at Cook County Health and Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.

It’s worth it for patients to do whatever they can to prevent an MRSA infection, he said.

“You left the hospital, you don’t want to go back.”

Just Posted

Ham radio operators in central Alberta tune in

Amateur radio enthusiasts in central Alberta tuned in for the weekend. Central… Continue reading

Winners crowned at 19th Woody’s Triathlon

The rain held off all weekend and made for great conditions for the more than 500 competitors

‘Clients fall off:’ Calgary program helps recently released prisoners with hep C

CALGARY — Imagine adjusting to life after serving prison time, then add… Continue reading

Five members of the same family now charged in relation to death of Kiran Dhesi

SURREY, B.C. — The RCMP made two arrests on Friday in connection… Continue reading

Rock climber suffers fatal fall on the Stawamus Chief overlooking Squamish, B.C.

SQUAMISH, B.C. — Police say a rock climber fell to his death… Continue reading

WATCH: Hundreds run in the 5K Foam Fest in Red Deer

The annual event took place at Heritage Ranch on Saturday

UK: Police visit incident dogs Johnson’s leadership campaign

LONDON — The leading contender to become Britain’s next prime minister is… Continue reading

Trump: ‘Surprise’ question about Pence led him to hesitate

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump says he hesitated when asked about endorsing… Continue reading

Indigenous drummers lead pipeline protesters on 22-kilometre march in Victoria

VICTORIA — The government approval of the Trans-Mountain pipeline expansion won’t stop… Continue reading

Retired UBC professor Peter Winterburn killed in Chile, school confirms

VALPARAISO, Chile — A retired geochemistry professor from the University of British… Continue reading

Sask. Premier Scott Moe participates in Pride parade in Saskatoon

SASKATOON — Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe participated in his first Pride parade… Continue reading

Parents of soldier killed in parachute exercise ask for thorough investigation

OTTAWA — The remains of the Canadian soldier killed in a parachute-training… Continue reading

Despite billions in new spending, Duclos still sees ‘affordability’ gaps

OTTAWA — Despite billions of dollars in new spending over the last… Continue reading

Most Read