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Considering the precautionary principle and its application to MRSA and SARS-CoV-2 as emerging novel pathogens of their time

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-21, 13:31 authored by Harris, J, Hazel MaxwellHazel Maxwell, Susan Dodds
In the 1980s Contact Precautions were introduced as a precautionary measure to control the emerging threat of antimicrobial resistance in hospitals, particularly methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). Today, antimicrobial resistance remains a concerning global public health threat, and a focus for hospital patient safety priorities. In late 2019 a novel respiratory virus described as SARS-CoV-2, was reported. Just as MRSA had prompted control measures developed in the context of limited information and understanding of the pathogen, public health control measures against SARS-CoV-2 were promptly and strictly implemented. Whilst SARS-CoV-2 control measures were successful at containing the virus, numerous detrimental socio-economic and health impacts have led to a rebalancing of harms versus benefits and loosening of restrictions. Conversely, evidence collated over the past 50 years, suggests that Contact Precautions are not superior to well-applied standard infection prevention and control precautions in controlling MRSA acquisition in hospitals. Several harms associated with Contact Precautions, affecting patient safety, financial costs, and organisational culture, are described. However, rebalancing of hospital MRSA control policies has been slow to materialise.


Publication title

Infection, Disease & Health






School of Health Sciences


Elsevier BV

Place of publication


Rights statement

© 2022 Australasian College for Infection Prevention and Control. Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Disease distribution and transmission (incl. surveillance and response)

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