In hospitals, daily antiseptic bath may prevent dangerous infections

by Maureen Salamon, Healthday Reporter
In hospitals, daily antiseptic bath may prevent dangerous infections
Simple swab-based cleansing cut rates of some drug-resistant bacteria by 23 percent, study found.

(HealthDay)—A daily swabbing with a simple antiseptic greatly decreases the number of life-threatening bloodstream infections and drug-resistant bacteria lurking among patients in acute-care hospital units, a new study suggests.

Researchers found that bathing patients with washcloths soaked with chlorhexidine—a cheap, broad-spectrum antiseptic—lowered the rate of hospital-acquired bloodstream infections by 28 percent.

Highly feared multidrug-resistant organisms such as MRSA (methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus) and VRE (-resistant enterococcus) were reduced by 23 percent.

"We're talking about an intervention that's very simple to implement and minimal in cost," said study author Dr. Edward Wong, chief of infectious disease at Hunter Holmes McGuire Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Richmond, Va. "This can be laid on top of all the other things [experts recommend] to decrease the spread of these organisms."

The study is published in the Feb. 7 issue of the .

About 5 percent of hospitalized patients acquire healthcare-associated infections, often from bacteria entering the bloodstream through surgical incisions or catheters, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The per-patient cost of treating such infections is enormous—approximately $40,000, Wong said.

Wong and his colleagues analyzed more than 7,700 patients in nine intensive-care and bone-marrow-transplantation units in six hospitals. Health providers were randomly assigned to bathe patients with either no-rinse chlorhexidine-soaked washcloths or non-antimicrobial washcloths for six months, then alternate with the other product for an additional six months. Chlorhexidine wipes, when sold in bulk, cost less than 20 cents apiece on Internet sites.

The dramatically lowered rates of and MRSA and VRE acquisition—which can mean a patient is either a carrier or infected with the bacteria—didn't surprise Wong, whose previous research yielded similar results.

"At least based on preliminary studies we've done, we knew we'd have some benefit but we wanted to make sure we could generalize," he said. Chlorhexidine wipes "are clearly going to cost much less than the cost of antibiotics or the cost of health care."

Dr. Philip Tierno, director of clinical microbiology and immunology at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City, said his institution has been using chlorhexidine for years on about to have surgery.

"It's very good because it has residual effectiveness on the skin for a day or two," he said. "So when the surgeon cuts through flesh, it's less likely to impregnate the skin with organisms."

"If you get a very serious infection ... it may lead to significant problems," Tierno added. "This has a very good benefit and it's worthwhile to pursue."

More information: There's more on healthcare-associated infections at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Recommended for you

The hidden burden of dengue fever in West Africa

10 hours ago

Misdiagnosis of febrile illnesses as malaria is a continuing problem in Africa. A new study shows that in Ghana, dengue fever is circulating in urban areas and going undiagnosed. The authors of the study hope to use the findings ...

Teenager with stroke symptoms actually had Lyme disease

10 hours ago

A Swiss teenager, recently returned home from a discotheque, came to the emergency department with classic sudden symptoms of stroke, only to be diagnosed with Lyme disease. The highly unusual case presentation was published ...

Understanding lung disease in aboriginal Australians

11 hours ago

A new study has confirmed that Aboriginal Australians have low forced vital capacity—or the amount of air that can be forcibly exhaled from the lungs after taking the deepest breath possible. The finding may account for ...

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.