Universal decolonization was more effective than targeted decolonization or screening and isolation in reducing rates of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), according to study results in the New England Journal of Medicine.

For the study trial, a multidisciplinary team evaluated the effectiveness of MRSA prevention practices in 74 adult ICUs, with a total of 74,256 participants. Investigators compared three approaches: routine care, providing germ-killing soap and ointment only to patients with MRSA, and providing germ-killing soap and ointment to all ICU patients.

Researchers found that using germ-killing soap and ointment on all ICU patients can reduce bloodstream infections by up to 44% and significantly reduce the presence of (MRSA) in ICUs. They also found that the use of germ-killing soap and ointment on all ICU patients effectively prevented infections caused by germs other than MRSA.

“This study helps answer a long-standing debate in the medical field about whether we should tailor our efforts to prevent infection to specific pathogens, such as MRSA, or whether we should identify a high-risk patient group and give them all special treatment to prevent infection,” said lead author Susan Huang, MD, MPH, associate professor at the UCI School of Medicine and medical director of epidemiology and infection prevention at UC Irvine Health.

“The universal decolonization strategy was the most effective and the easiest to implement. It eliminates the need for screening ICU patients for MRSA.”