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In Hospitals, Daily Antiseptic Bath May Prevent Dangerous Infections
Date:2/6/2013

By Maureen Salamon
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Feb. 6 (HealthDay News) -- 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 (vancomycin-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 New England Journal of Medicine.

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
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