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A simple strategy to reduce infections and save lives

Soap, nasal decolonization reduces infections, hospitalizations in nursing home residents

May 16, 2024

IN THE NEWS: The nation’s nearly 1.3 million nursing home residents are at high risk of infection from antibiotic-resistant organisms. A recently published study, the PROTECT trial, provides a simple strategy known as universal decolonization to reduce these infections and ultimately save lives in a vulnerable, fragile population.

medscape logo teal m and medscape in teal and black lettersThe PROTECT trial took place among 14,000 residents in 28 nursing homes in Southern California. The study’s senior investigator, UCI Health infectious diseases expert Dr. Susan Huang spoke to Medscape about how the method works.

“Universal-decolonization works by decreasing the amount of bacteria on the skin and in the nose during times when people are at high risk of developing infection from their own body bacteria. Nursing homes have a high proportion of residents who have antimicrobial-resistant bacteria on their bodies. Decreasing the amount of bacteria on the skin and in the nose may help reduce the spread of MDROs and other contagious pathogens within nursing homes.”

Huang is the medical director of epidemiology and infection prevention at UCI Health, as well as a chancellor's professor in the Division of Infectious Diseases at the UCI School of Medicine.

The PROTECT trial and its results have been named a groundbreaking achievement in U.S. clinical research and earned a 2023 Top Ten Clinical Research Achievement Award by the Clinical Research Forum.

Over the last 20 years, Huang has led work funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and other U.S. Department of Health and Human Services agencies showing that decolonization of bacteria on patients is an effective tool to reduce or prevent serious infections for at-risk healthcare populations. Her pioneering innovations have significantly improved patient care at UCI Medical Center and in more than two dozen nursing homes in Orange and Los Angeles counties. These protocols have been adopted by healthcare systems across the nation.

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