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Crit Care Resusc. 2018 Jun;20(2):109-116.

Impact of unit-wide chlorhexidine bathing in intensive care on bloodstream infection and drug-resistant organism acquisition.

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Department of Infectious Diseases, Austin Hospital, Melbourne, Vic, Australia.
Department of Intensive Care, Austin Hospital, Melbourne, Vic, Australia.
Business Intelligence Unit, Austin Hospital, Melbourne, Vic, Australia.
Department of Microbiology, Austin Hospital, Melbourne, Vic, Australia.
Department of Infectious Diseases, Austin Hospital, Melbourne, Vic, Australia.
School of Medicine, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Vic, Australia.



Chlorhexidine gluconate (CHG) bathing has been reported to decrease bloodstream infections and colonisation of multidrug-resistant organisms (MROs) in intensive care units (ICUs). However, its effectiveness in an Australian setting has not been assessed.


To test whether the introduction of ICU-wide CHG bathing in place of triclosan would affect rates of the primary outcome of central line-associated bloodstream infections (CLABSI), or the secondary outcomes of ICU-acquired positive blood cultures or other clinical specimens, and MRO colonisation including methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE).


We conducted a single-centre, sequential, before-and-after observational study. Patient microbiological and clinical data were compared in the 12 months before and after the introduction of CHG bathing in the ICU.


A total of 4262 ICU admissions were studied, 2117 before and 2145 during the CHG-bathing period. There were no significant changes in the rates of CLABSI (from 1.69/1000 central venous catheter-days [95% CI, 0.68-3.48] to 1.33 [95% CI, 0.49-2.90]; P = 0.68), or ICU-acquired positive blood cultures (from 5.14/1000 patientdays [95% CI, 3.45-7.39] to 4.45 [95% CI, 3.00-6.36]; P = 0.58). However, we observed a lower incidence of MRSA acquisition during the CHG-bathing period (mean difference, -2.13 [95% CI, -3.65 to -0.60] per 1000 patient-days; P = 0.007). There was no difference in the rate of isolates involving other pathogens including VRE.


In a tertiary Australian ICU, routine CHG bathing compared with triclosan did not affect the rates of ICU-acquired CLABSI or positive blood cultures. However, it significantly decreased the incidence of MRSA acquisition.

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