By the end of December, a lethal bacterium had swept through UC Irvine Medical Center’s intensive care unit, sickening seven infants. Dr. Susan Huang, the hospital’s infection control expert, had a plan.
The strategy — which she had promoted so successfully that most U.S. hospitals now use it — included bathing all infants in the ICU with a powerful disinfectant, and swabbing inside their noses with an antibiotic.
But this time, the plan failed. Despite also isolating infected babies and ensuring nurses washed their hands, in February and March three more babies tested positive for the same strain of the superbug MRSA.
The outbreak is a reminder that scientists are still...