Stemming MRSA's Spread using Science-Based Regulations & Legal Enforcement: Or the Microbes will Inherit the Earth

26 Pages Posted: 22 Feb 2008

See all articles by Barbara Pfeffer Billauer

Barbara Pfeffer Billauer

Institute of World Politics; International Program in Bioethics, U. of Porto; Foundation for Law and Science Centers, Inc.

Date Written: February 19, 2008


A recent spate of deaths in High School students from methicillin resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) along with reports of its penetration into the general community have generated much press - but little advance in methods to curb its spread. Currently, the CDC advocates hand-washing as the response of choice, using a 'watered down' version of a method first discovered over a hundred years ago. The original - and effective, (at least for the time) - hand-washing techniques pioneered by Semmelweiss and Lister incorporated Carbolic Acid and Chlorine. In hospitals today the handwashing protocol incorporates alcohol or other germicide. The technique advocated for community use specifies soap, and works only through mechanical removal of the microbes from the skin. Further, even in hospitals handwashing has been proven ineffective - primarily due to non-compliance. There is no reason to believe hand-washing will work in the community either: because of non-compliance and the impossibility of enforcement and monitoring, in addition to lack of germicidal components. Further, microbial evolution has conferred on microbes an ability to survive previously effective germicides. This factor further confounds the effectiveness of current techniques, and begs for the development of new methods to address resistant species. This article, relying on the principles of Industrial Hygiene, suggests alternative means to dealing with ambient, pathogenic microbes using modern techniques, materials and an advanced understanding of the growth factors needed by microbes to survive. Further, methods outlined below involve changes to building materials, maintenance and design, which can be legislatively implemented, easily regulated and enforced by legal means.

Keywords: resistant microbes, industrial hygiene, legislatiion, regulation, novel solutions, MRSA, transmission, handwashing effectivenss

JEL Classification: I12, I18, J28, K11, K32, O33, O31, Q28, K19, K39

Suggested Citation

Billauer, Barbara P., Stemming MRSA's Spread using Science-Based Regulations & Legal Enforcement: Or the Microbes will Inherit the Earth (February 19, 2008). Available at SSRN: or

Barbara P. Billauer (Contact Author)

Institute of World Politics ( email )

1521 16th St NW,
Washington, DC
United States
+1 202-462-2101 (Phone)

International Program in Bioethics, U. of Porto ( email )

Rua Dr. Roberto Frias
4200-464 Porto

Foundation for Law and Science Centers, Inc. ( email )

1020 16th Street NW
Suite LL1
Washington, DC 20036
United States
972 54 344 6055 (Phone)

Register to save articles to
your library


Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics