hospitalResearchers have suggested there is poor evidence to support screening and isolating infected patients as an effective precaution against hospital superbugs.

While the standard practice of good hand hygiene and bathing with antibacterial solutions remain key to reducing infections according to the team from University Hospital Cologne, "focusing solely on isolation or screening could do more harm than good".

Study lead Prof Gerd Fatkenheuer said: "In the haste to do something against the rising tide of MRSA infection, measures were adopted that seemed plausible but were not properly assessed, bundling the effective and harmless with the ineffective and harmful.

"We know for example that isolating patients can result in anxiety and depression and fewer visits by doctors and nurses."

Recent figures for England suggest 862 cases of Meticillin resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) were recorded in the year 2013-14, a substantial reduction from the 4,451 cases reported in 2007-08 but concerns about its spread remain.

The bug is resistant to most antibiotics and while it is can be carried harmlessly on the skin it may lead to serious wound infections - particularly in people who are already unwell.

Hospitals have used a varied combination of methods to tackle it, including:
- careful hand-washing
- masks, gloves and gowns for healthcare workers and visitors
- screening people for signs of infection before admission
- isolating infected individuals in private rooms

The report authors say as MRSA levels continue to drop this provides a good opportunity to reassess how best to tackle the problem.

They recommend scarce resources could be redeployed to combat other infections, rather than singling out MRSA but further research is needed in this area particularly as most infection control measures are used in combination.