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Antimicrobial Trumps Soap and Water in the ICU

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media, February 7, 2013

However, he adds, "We have bathed patients daily with it in our ICUs for several years, and more recently outside of ICUs. Soon all patients in our hospital will be bathed daily with it. In my opinion, chlorhexidine has been instrumental in the significant reductions in infections that we have observed."

In their paper, Wong and co-authors noted that "concern regarding increased resistance of nosocomial bacteria to biocides and disinfectants such as  chlorhexidine has tempered enthusiasm for wider adoption of their use in hospitals for skin antisepsis."  That potential, for "emergence of resistance to chlorhexidine remains a substantial concern and should be monitored over time."

But the bottom line, which is what everyone cares about now, is that adding the use of an antimicrobial impregnated wash cloth, instead of one with just soap and water, to the routine daily bathing of patients in the ICU and some other high risk units such as those performing bone marrow transplants, can reduce infections that can cost hospitals millions.

The study was funded by the CDC and Sage Products, which makes both chlorhexidine and non-chlorhexidine wash cloths for hospitalized patient use.


Cheryl Clark is senior quality editor and California correspondent for HealthLeaders Media. She is a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists.
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