September 7, 2009

Anti-bacterial bathing reduces ‘superbugs’

Bathing hospital patients with a weak solution of chlorhexidine may help protect them against superbugs, U.S. researchers say.

Chlorhexidine is the same anti-bacterial agent used by surgeons to scrub in before an operation.

The study, published in Critical Care Medicine, found giving critically ill hospital patients a daily sponge bath with a 4 percent solution of chlorhexidine may lower deadly blood stream infections by as much as 73 percent.

Even when they are not fatal, hospital-acquired hospital infections have been reported to lengthen hospital stays by an average of a full week and add as much as $40,000 in costs.

Weekly swab testing at six different hospitals found 32 percent less methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus and 50 percent fewer cases of vancomycin-resistant Enterococci -- two of the most common superbugs when 2,650 chlorhexine-bathed patients were compared to 2,670 patients at the same hospitals washed with soap and water.

Doing everything possible to ward of bloodstream infections and halt the spread of these dangerous bacteria is essential to safeguarding our patients' well-being, encouraging their speedy recovery and sparing valuable hospital resources, study co-investigator Dr. Trish Perl of Baltimore's Johns Hopkins Hospital said in a statement.