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Antimicrob Agents Chemother. 2009 Nov;53(11):4778-82. doi: 10.1128/AAC.00582-09. Epub 2009 Sep 8.

Alcohols for skin antisepsis at clinically relevant skin sites.

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  • 1Bode Chemie GmbH, Scientific Affairs, Melanchthonstr. 27, 22525 Hamburg, Germany.


The antiseptic efficacy of ethanol, isopropanol, and n-propanol at 60%, 70%, and 89.5% (all vol/vol) was analyzed after 2, 3, or 4 min of application to the forehead, back, and abdomen of 180 volunteers by the use of a standardized swab sampling method. Results of recolonization by the aerobic skin flora of the upper arms and backs of 20 volunteers were compared 72 h after treatment with 0.5%, 1%, or 2% chlorhexidine digluconate (CHG) in 89.5% n-propanol. The most effective alcohol at all skin sites was n-propanol, with a mean log(10) reduction of 1.82 after 2 min on the forehead. Efficacy against the aerobic flora of the forehead was mainly influenced by the type of alcohol (P < 0.001), followed by the concentration (P < 0.001) and the application time (P = 0.006). Ethanol and isopropanol were significantly less effective (both P < 0.001). Alcohol supplemented with 0.5% or more CHG was significantly more effective than alcohol alone in the suppression of recolonization (P < 0.05). An 89.5% solution of n-propanol was the most effective alcohol for the reduction of populations of aerobic skin flora. Its combination with CHG is appropriate whenever recolonization of the skin must be limited. Further studies are needed to determine the most effective concentration of CHG in n-propanol to provide the best protection against recolonization of the skin, e.g., for catheter site care.

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