Hand Sanitizer Cuts MRSA Risk

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Updated: 10/20 1:01 pm

Dec. 5, 2008 -- Every dab of alcohol hand sanitizer used in British hospitals lowered multidrug-resistant staph (MRSA) infection rates by 1%, a U.K. study shows.

In-hospital infections -- particularly MRSA -- are a huge and growing problem. As part of the solution, the U.K. National Health Service in 2004 launched a national "clean your hands" campaign among health-care workers.

As part of the campaign, dispensers of alcohol hand sanitizer are placed next to each patient's bed. Posters encourage patients to ask every hospital worker they see whether they've washed their hands.

It's working, according to an evaluation of the campaign reported by Sheldon Stone of University College London Medical School at this week's meeting of the Federation of Infection Societies in Cardiff, Wales.

For every extra 1/5 teaspoonful of hand sanitizer used by a hospital, MRSA rates fell by 1%, Stone reported. The program led to a threefold increase in the amount of hand sanitizer and soap used in U.K. hospitals.

"The findings also serve as a reminder that we should be washing our hands in the home and workplace," Stone says in a news release. "Winter is the season when colds and flus abound, and people can protect themselves and stop germs from spreading by frequently washing their hands."

Although MRSA rates dropped during the "clean your hands" campaign, rates of another on-the-rise, difficult-to-eradicate bug -- Clostridium difficile or C. diff -- did not.

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