• nursing homes;
  • patient isolation;
  • extended spectrum beta-lactamases;
  • vancomycin-resistant enterococci;
  • methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus

Objectives: To compare routine glove use by healthcare workers for all residents, without use of contact-isolation precautions, with contact-isolation precautions for the care of residents who had vancomycin-resistant enterococci or methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus isolated from a clinical culture

Design: Random allocation of two similar sections of the skilled-care unit to one of the infection-control strategies during an 18-month study period.

Setting: Skilled-care unit of a 667-bed acute- and long-term care facility.

Participants: All residents present or admitted to the skilled-care unit from June 1, 1998, through December 7, 1999.

Measurements: Resident acquisition of four antimicrobial-resistant organisms (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, vancomycin-resistant enterococci, or extended-spectrum β-lactamase-producing Klebsiella pneumoniae or Escherichia coli). All isolates were strain typed. The facility level costs associated with each strategy were estimated.

Results: Resident acquisition of antimicrobial-resistant organisms was no different in the glove-use and isolation-precautions sections (31 episodes (1.5 per 1,000 resident-days) vs 38 episodes (1.6 per 1,000 resident-days)). Acquisition of either of two prevalent K. pneumoniae strains was more likely (P=.06) in residents in the isolation-precautions section. The estimated costs of contact-isolation precautions were 40% greater than those of routine glove use.

Conclusion: There was a similar frequency of transmission of antimicrobial-resistant bacteria in the two study sections; there was evidence for resident-to-resident K. pneumoniae transmission in the isolation-precautions section. Routine glove use for healthcare workers, which decreases resident social isolation and healthcare facility costs, may be preferable in many long-term care facilities.