Conference Coverage

ICU infections: Chlorhexidine wipes tame MRSA, CRE



SAN FRANCISCO– The University of Kentucky Medical Center, Lexington, halved the rate of MRSA and CRE infections in the ICU by switching from contact precautions to decolonization with nasal povidone iodine swabs and daily chlorhexidine wipes, according to a report presented at ID Week 2018.

Dr. Jason Moss of the University of Kentucky, Lexington M. Alexander Otto/MDedge News

Dr. Jason Moss

The move prevented an estimated eight methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and three carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE) infections and saved the medical center more than $150,000 in the year following the November 2016 switch.

The goal was to address the rate of MRSA bacteremia, which was higher than national ICU averages. Contact precautions began to make less sense as MRSA became more common in the surrounding community, and “we just wanted to get rid of contact precautions,” said study lead Jason Moss, DO, an infectious disease fellow at the university.

Contact precautions are expensive, make patients feel isolated, and according to some studies, lead to worse outcomes, he said at the annual scientific meeting on infectious diseases.

Decolonization is not routine in most ICUs, but it’s gaining traction. Guidelines recommend chlorhexidine bathing with wipes to stop CRE transmission, and chlorhexidine is used to prevent central line–associated bloodstream infections (CLABSI).

A recent analysis of 17 trials found marked decreases in MRSA and CLABSI with decolonization and concluded that chlorhexidine bathing “appears to be of the most clinical benefit when infection rates are high for a given ICU population,” as was the case in Kentucky (Crit Care. 2016 Nov 23;20[1]:379).

When researchers compared the year before the change to the year after, “we were pretty surprised at how much the rates of infection and colonization decreased. There have been some people that have been doing this in the ICU, but probably not to our extent. If you want to get rid of contact precautions, this is a great process to do it with,” Dr. Moss said.

Rates of colonization with MRSA or CRE fell from about 14 isolates per 10,000 patient-days to fewer than 6 (P = .026). Infection rates fell from 3.9 isolates per 10,000 patient-days to 2 (P = .083). Combined rates of infections and colonizations fell from almost 18 isolates per 10,000 patient-days to fewer than 8 (P = .010).

Decolonization is now standard practice at the university. Every ICU patient gets a one-time povidone iodine nasal swab at admission, then daily baths with 2% chlorhexidine gluconate applied by impregnated wipe. It usually takes four or five wipes to do the entire body.

Spending on gowns fell from about $153,000 per year to just under $60,000, but spending on wipes went up from about $2,700 to $275,000, and spending on povidone iodine nasal swabs went up to more than $100,000.

When balanced against the money not spent on those 11 prevented infections, however, the program saved the medical center about $152,000 in its first year, according to Dr. Moss and his team.

There was no funding for the work, and the investigators had no disclosures.

SOURCE: Moss J et al. ID Week 2018, Abstract 32.

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