Skip to content Skip to footer

The Debate on Contact Precautions: Are They Essential for Preventing MRSA in Acute Care Facilities?

In a recent comprehensive review published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, a team of researchers critically evaluated the role of contact precautions (CPs) in preventing the spread of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) in acute care facilities. They assessed the benefits, potential harms, and effectiveness of CPs, advocating for their implementation only in specific situations.

Key organizations in the field, such as the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America (SHEA), the Association of Professionals in Infection Control (APIC), and the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA), utilize compendiums endorsed by relevant entities to guide MRSA prevention in hospitals. Yet, these authorities have questioned the universal designation of CPs as “essential,” pointing out inconsistent evidence and potential adverse outcomes. Citing the need for a tailored, context-dependent approach, some epidemiologists favor a more precision-based use of CPs. This contingent emphasizes the importance of continuing research to optimize the application of CPs under appropriate circumstances, an approach they believe could minimize negative consequences and refine infection control strategies, especially in outbreak scenarios or instances of sustained transmission.

The existing studies cited in these compendiums do not conclusively establish CPs as a vital instrument in preventing MRSA. While these research endeavors provide some understanding of MRSA contamination via healthcare personnel and the environment, they do not definitively prove that CPs outperform other preventive measures such as enhanced hand hygiene and environmental cleaning. The decline in MRSA infections and the national trend towards reducing CP implementation indicates a necessity for a more comprehensive understanding of how CPs contribute to MRSA prevention within acute care settings. This need for understanding is further underscored by the rise in MRSA infections during the COVID-19 pandemic and the various changes in care practices during the pandemic that confound evaluation of CP’s impact. Despite the central role that CPs play in MRSA prevention, no randomized trials unambiguously establish their effectiveness for those colonized or infected with MRSA. Studies have shown an array of impacts, with most results from ICU settings, limiting their generalizability to other care environments. CPs can also lead to undesirable outcomes, like fewer clinician-patient interactions, extended hospital stays, higher costs, ‘Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) fatigue,’ and substantial environmental repercussions due to the abundance of single-use plastics. Moving forward, the authors recommend that MRSA CP policies align with goals of minimizing harm, waste, and environmental impact while boosting patient safety. A re-evaluation of extensive CP use, especially in low-evidence environments, is crucial, along with efforts to harmonize with broader healthcare targets and environmental sustainability.


Sign Up to Our Newsletter

Be the first to know the latest updates

[yikes-mailchimp form="1"]