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Aust Crit Care. 2013 Nov;26(4):158-66. doi: 10.1016/j.aucc.2013.05.001. Epub 2013 Jul 1.

The value of chlorhexidine gluconate wipes and prepacked washcloths to prevent the spread of pathogens--a systematic review.

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  • 1CIBERES, Spain; Intensive Care Unit, Vall d'Hebron University Hospital Barcelona, Spain. Electronic address:



Use of chlorhexidine gluconate wipes and pre-packed washcloths has been described for preventing pathogen spread in healthcare settings.


To assess the impact of chlorhexidine washcloths/wipes in preventing the spread of pathogens.


Extensive and structured literature search from studies in Google Academic, Cochrane Library, Web of Science, Pubmed and Cinahl from their inception until November 2012.


Final analysis included 15 studies, 9 of which were randomised controlled trials. The most frequent setting was the intensive care unit. In intensive care units, a significant reduction of bloodstream infection was associated with intervention and 3 studies revealed a decrease in blood culture contamination. One study showed a decrease in staff and environmental contamination and no increase in chlorhexidine resistance with intervention. Positive blood cultures for multiple pathogens also declined with intervention. In a paediatric intensive care unit, intervention decreased bacteraemia and catheter-associated bloodstream infection. In hospital wards, intervention was associated to a 64% reduction of pathogen transmission. One study had no statistically significant results. Pre-surgical chlorhexidine use significantly decreased bacterial colonisation but had no impact on surgical site infections. Regarding maternal and perinatal setting, one study did not show reduction of early onset neonatal sepsis and pathogen transmission. Another study of vaginal and neonatal decolonisation with chlorhexidine wiping revealed significant reduction in colonisation. One study concluded that single and multiple umbilical cord cleansing reduced the likelihood for a positive swab in 25% and 29%, respectively. Neonatal wiping maintained low levels of skin colonisation for a 24h period, for multiple pathogens.


Current evidence supports the usefulness of chlorhexidine washcloths and wipes in an intensive care, hospital and pre-surgical setting. More studies are required to encourage its use for prevention of perinatal and neonatal transmission of pathogens.

Copyright © 2013 Australian College of Critical Care Nurses Ltd. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


Chlorhexidine gluconate washcloths; Chlorhexidine gluconate wipes; Nosocomial infection prevention; Pathogens

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