Degowning the controversies of contact precautions for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus: A review

Am J Infect Control. 2016 Jan 1;44(1):97-103. doi: 10.1016/j.ajic.2015.08.003. Epub 2015 Sep 12.


Background: Contact precautions (CPs) are recommended to prevent methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) transmission in institutions. Rising doubts about CP effectiveness and recognition of unintended consequences for patients have raised questions about the benefit. The objective of this study was to evaluate the effectiveness and adverse outcomes associated with CPs for prevention of MRSA transmission.

Methods: We searched PubMed, Embase, and the Cochrane Library for articles related to effectiveness and adverse outcomes of CPs in patients with MRSA. Criteria for inclusion included the following: articles conducted in the United States, articles performed in an acute care setting, articles that were not a case series or review, and those with standardized collection of data or inclusion of case and control groups. Results were summarized and examined for potential limitations. Recommendations were based on our findings.

Results: CPs reduced MRSA transmission in epidemic settings and in instances with high compliance, but a decrease in infection rates was not shown. Unintended consequences of CPs include decreased health care provider (HCP) time spent with patients, low HCP compliance, decreased perceptions of comfort from patients, and greater likelihood of patient complaints and negative psychologic implications.

Conclusion: In endemic settings, there are few data to support routine use of CPs to control the spread of MRSA. Education should be performed in hospitals to improve patients' perception of care and understanding of CPs when implemented and HCPs' adherence to good hand hygiene and standard precautions practices.

Keywords: Barrier precautions; Contact isolation; Contact precautions; Gloves; Gowning; Hand hygiene; Infection prevention; Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus; Standard precautions; Transmission-based precautions.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cross Infection / epidemiology
  • Cross Infection / prevention & control*
  • Cross Infection / transmission
  • Guideline Adherence
  • Hand Hygiene*
  • Health Personnel
  • Hospitals
  • Humans
  • Infection Control*
  • Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus / physiology*
  • Staphylococcal Infections / epidemiology
  • Staphylococcal Infections / prevention & control*
  • Staphylococcal Infections / transmission
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Universal Precautions*