A review of several studies has revealed that a nasal antibiotic ointment can reduce the risk of staph infection without causing antibiotic resistance.
Miranda van Rijen, the lead review author and an infection control practitioner at Amphia Hospital Breda in the Netherlands, suggests that of intranasal mupirocin can lower the infection rate in hospitalized patients, who test positive as nasal carriers of the Staphylococcus aureus bacteria,
Up to 30 percent of people are nasal carriers of staph aureus, which simply means they carry the bacteria in their nostrils but it does not cause an infection. Most of the time, staph causes no infection or involves only minor skin problems. However, it can sometimes lead to serious complications.
Mupirocin, also known by its brand name, Bactroban is a topical antibiotic that is effective against several bacteria, including methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).
The drug works by blocking the activity of an enzyme within bacteria.
During the study, the researchers reviewed nine randomized controlled trials involving 3,396 patients who were nasal carriers of staph aureus.
They found that patients who received intranasal mupirocin had about half the rates of staph infection after treatment, compared to patients who received no treatment or a placebo.
Staph infections can cause significant complications in hospitalized patients: pneumonia, surgical wound infections, urinary tract infections and blood-borne bacterial infections.
"We were not surprised by the results," van Rijen said.
"In our hospital, mupirocin has been used routinely in cardiothoracic surgery for several years and our S. aureus infection rate is very low," she added.
Until now, "routine use of mupirocin has not been applied in many hospitals, mainly due to concern about the development of mupirocin resistance and the absence of convincing evidence that mupirocin reduces the infection rate," van Rijen said.
"If the 'short-term use' meant five days of therapy for every patient in a hospital - or even every surgical patient in a hospital where the average stay was three days - then a large portion of the constantly changing inpatient population would be on mupirocin therapy," said Barry Farr, M.D., professor emeritus of medicine and epidemiology at the University of Virginia.
The review appears in the latest issue of The Cochrane Library, a publication of The Cochrane Collaboration.