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J Hosp Infect. 2004 Feb;56(2):156-9.

Effectiveness of topical chlorhexidine powder as an alternative to hexachlorophane for the control of Staphylococcus aureus in neonates.

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Department of Microbiology, Leeds General Infirmary and University of Leeds, Leeds LS1 3EX, UK.


We routinely phage-type Staphylococcus aureus isolates from high-risk inpatients each week. This surveillance approach previously identified a five-year outbreak of a methicillin-susceptible S. aureus strain (MSSA, PT 53,85), which affected 202 babies on a regional neonatal unit. We previously reported this outbreak and the multiple staged infection control measures that were required to end it. These included strict emphasis on hand hygiene, environmental and staff surveillance sampling, application of topical triclosan solution and hexachlorophane powder, aseptic handling of a skin protectant material, and use of topical mupirocin for staff nasal carriers of the endemic MSSA strain and for babies colonized or infected with S. aureus. In summer 2000 topical hexachlorophane powder became unavailable and we therefore substituted topical 1% chlorhexidine powder as part of routine umbilical decontamination. We have continued prospective S. aureus surveillance for the past five years to monitor the effect of this practice change. We observed a continued decline in the numbers of monthly MSSA isolates from neonatal unit babies. Since the substitution of chlorhexidine for hexachlorophane, the median monthly number of MRSA isolates has been 0.5 (range 0-4). Only sporadic S. aureus PT 53,85 isolates were recovered. Control of S. aureus in our regional neonatal unit, in particular an endemic MSSA strain, was maintained when topical umbilical hexachlorophane powder was substituted with 1% chlorhexidine powder.

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