Is there any evidence that routinely wearing gowns and gloves upon entry into the rooms of patients on contact precautions for MRSA or VRE really works?

Although routine gowning and gloving in the care of hospitalized patients with methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) or vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus (VRE)—also known as contact precautions (CP)— is considered a standard of care (1), the evidence supporting its effectiveness in preventing endemic hospital-associated multidrug-resistant organism (MDROs) infections is not robust and is often conflicting. In fact, this practice is increasingly being questioned (including by some hospital epidemiologists) as means of preventing endemic transmission of MDROs in hospitals (1-7).

Critics often point out that studies supporting the use of CP in MDROs are observational, involving only outbreak situations where they were instituted as part of a bundled approach (eg, improved hand hygiene), making it difficult to determine its relative contribution to infection prevention (2,6).

In fact, recent cluster-randomized trials have largely failed to demonstrate clear benefit of CP over usual care for the prevention of acquiring MRSA or VRE in hospitalized patients (2,4). Furthermore, a meta-analysis of studies in which CP were eliminated failed to find an increase in the subsequent rates of transmission of MRSA, VRE, or other MDROs (2,7).

Based on these and other studies, some have suggested that in the presence of other infection prevention measures (eg, hand hygiene monitoring), CP be implemented only in select circumstances such as open or draining wounds, severe diarrhea or outbreak situations (3).


The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), along with the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) and the Society of Healthcare Epidemiologists of America (SHEA), however, continue to recommend implementation of CP in the care of patients with MDROs.  

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1. Maragakis LL, Jernigan JA. Things we do for good reasons: contact precautions for multidrug-resistant organisms, including MRSA and VRE. J Hosp Med 2019;14:194-6.
2. Young K, Doernberg SB, Snedcor RF, et al. Things we do for no reason:contact precautions for MRSA and VRE. J Hosp Med 2019;14:178-80.
3. Bearman G, Abbas S, Masroor N, et al. Impact of discontinuing contact precautions for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus and vancomyin-resistant Enerococcus: an interrupted time series analysis. Infect Control Hosp Epidemiol 2018;39: 676-82.
4. Harris AD, Pineles L, Belton B, et al. Universal glove and gown use and acquisition of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in the ICU. A randomized trial. JAMA 2013;310:1571-80.
5. Morgan DJ, Murthy R, Munoz-Price LS, et al. Reconsidering contact precautions for endemic methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus and vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus. Infect Control Hosp Epidemiol 2015;36:1163-72.
6. Morgan DJ, Wenzel RP, Bearman G. Contact precautions for endemic MRSA and VRE. Time to retire legal mandates. JAMA 2017;318:329-30.
7. Marra AR, Edmond MB, Schweizer ML, et al. Discontinuing contact precautions for multidrug-resistant organisms: a systematic literature review and meta-analysis. Am J Infect Control 208;46:333-340.

Disclosures: The listed questions and answers are solely the responsibility of the author and do not necessarily represent the official views of Mercy Hospital-St. Louis or its affiliate healthcare centers, Mass General Hospital, Harvard Medical School or its affiliated institutions. Although every effort has been made to provide accurate information, the author is far from being perfect. The reader is urged to verify the content of the material with other sources as deemed appropriate and exercise clinical judgment in the interpretation and application of the information provided herein. No responsibility for an adverse outcome or guarantees for a favorable clinical result is assumed by the author. Thank you!


Is there any evidence that routinely wearing gowns and gloves upon entry into the rooms of patients on contact precautions for MRSA or VRE really works?

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