So far, a good amount of clinical research has been dedicated to establishing protocols for starting and continuing treatment of patients battling multi-drug resistant bacteria. But until Thursday, there had not been much guidance for healthcare facilities on when their personnel can safely cease contact precautions for these patients.
Addressing that need, the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America (SHEA) published in their journal, Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology, new expert guidance giving recommendations on how long personnel should use contact precautions to reduce the spread of potentially deadly organisms within the healthcare setting , which the study’s authors say “in most cases” ranges from one to three negative cultures before ceasing.
Their recommendations for the duration of contact precautions — including gowns, gloves, and masks — are, according to a SHEA press release, “specific to key multi-drug resistant organisms,” such as MRSA, Clostridium difficile infections (CDIs), Carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE), and Vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE).
One of the study’s authors, David Banach, MD, MPH, a hospital epidemiologist at the University of Connecticut Health Center, stated in a press release that “because of the virulent nature of multi-drug resistant infections and C. difficile infections, hospitals should consider establishing policies on the duration of contact precautions to safely care for patients and prevent spread of these bacteria. Unfortunately, current guidelines on contact precautions are incomplete in describing how long these protocols should be maintained. We outlined expert advice for hospitals to consider.”
Per that guidance document — which SHEA says has been endorsed by the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC), the Society of Hospital Medicine (SHM), and the Association of Medical Microbiology and Infectious Disease Canada (AMMI Canada) — personnel should consider how much time has passed since the most recent positive culture when evaluating whether transmission is likely.
The guidance also advises on patient characteristics that could determine for how long contact precautions should remain in place. For example, the recommendation for CDIs is to continue precautions for at least 48 hours after the resolution of diarrhea, possibly extending that if CDI rates are elevated.
The press release stated that “any guidance should be overseen and revisited by infection prevention and control leadership, especially in outbreak situations” and that the study’s authors recommend facilities “carefully assess their institutional risks, priorities, and resources prior to adopting a new policy on the duration of contact precautions, as well as weigh the cost and feasibility of implementation.”
“The duration of contact precautions can have a significant impact on the health of the patient, the hospital, and the community,” another of the authors, Gonzolo Bearman, MD, MPH, the chairman of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Virginia Commonwealth University, stated in the release. “This guidance is a starting point, however stronger research is needed to evaluate and optimize the use.”