"The magnitude of the effect we saw in reduction of MRSA infections was very comparable to the magnitude of the effect we see from bathing patients with chlorhexidine washes."
Harris adds that the secondary message of the study, that gloving and gowning works, is extremely important "because there are some infectious disease experts who think we should be moving away from gloves and gowns altogether" because of unintended consequences such as less patient satisfaction and more patient isolation.
"Our study suggests that would be the wrong thing to do," Harris says.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that healthcare personnel wear gloves and gowns only when caring for patients colonized or infected with antibiotic resistant bacteria.
However, the researchers did not find a statistically significant reduction in another bacteria, vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus, (VRE) or in a combination outcome of either VRE or MRSA,which Harris says was surprising.
"However, different bacteria behave differently. Thus you can't make a conclusion that it (gloves and gowns) should be used in all ICUs in the country, and similarly, you can't conclude that it shouldn't be used in any."