For the second year in a row, industrial sites across the country are being hit by antibiotic-resistant staph infections known as MRSA. Workers most frequently contract the highly contagious and potentially deadly staph infections through a break in the skin. The good news, according to a study appearing in the October 2008, edition ofThe Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy, is that help may be right in front of our noses.

Researchers at Oregon State University tested three common, over-the-counter wound-care products typically used for preventing infections. In the lab study, scientists tested a maximum strength antibiotic cream, a “poly” antibiotic cream, and a product containing benzethonium chloride with essential oils to see how each performed against multiple strains of MRSA.

Their conclusion? Only the benzethonium chloride/essential oils product, which is sold under the brand name Staphaseptic, effectively kills MRSA bacteria. All of the products tested had some antibacterial effectiveness against the superbug, but only Staphaseptic had a genuine “bactericidal” effect — meaning it killed the MRSA bacteria and reduced the number by a factor of 1,000. The decline in bacterial numbers was greater than a log value of 3, which is equivalent to a 99.9% kill. The ointment-like gel is applied to minor wounds before a bandage to kill offending organisms.

MRSA exploded as a national story in October 2007 when two events collided. First, 21 schools were closed in Virginia when a student there died from a MRSA infection. Nearly 24 hours later, The Centers for Disease Control released a report saying more Americans died from MRSA than AIDS. Suddenly MRSA was everywhere, both figuratively and literally.

The CDC has reported that 60% of all infections seen in emergency rooms are now MRSA-related. Couple that with the fact that the cost to treat a MRSA infection requiring a hospital stay approaches $30,000 and safety managers have reason to be concerned.

Staphaseptic is available at first aid suppliers in a two ounce tube and 1/16 ounce individual packets. Staphaseptic is manufactured by Tec Labs. The company’ss other products include Tecnu Extreme, Tecnu, Calagel, Corticool and The 10-Hour Insect Repellent.