Bacteria growing less susceptible to common antiseptic

August 13, 2014

CHICAGO (August 13, 2014) - Bacteria that cause life-threatening bloodstream infections in critically ill patients may be growing increasingly resistant to a common hospital antiseptic, according to a recent study led by investigators at Johns Hopkins. The study was published in the September issue of Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology, the journal of the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America.

Chlorhexidine gluconate (CHG) has been increasingly used in hospitals in light of recent evidence that daily antiseptic baths for patients in intensive care units (ICUs) may prevent infections and stop the spread of healthcare-associated infections. The impact of this expanded use on the effectiveness of the disinfectant is not yet known.

"Hospitals are appropriately using chlorhexidine to reduce infections and control the spread of antibiotic-resistant organisms," said Nuntra Suwantarat, MD, lead author. "However, our findings are a clear signal that we must continue to monitor bacteria for emerging antiseptic resistance as these antibacterial washes become more widely used in hospitals."

In the study, investigators compared bacterial resistance between cultures from patients in eight ICUs receiving daily antiseptic washes to patients in 30 non-ICUs who did not bathe daily with CHG. Bacterial cultures obtained from patients with regular antiseptic baths showed reduced susceptibility to CHG when compared with those from patients who did not have antiseptic baths. Regardless of unit protocol, 69 percent of all bacteria showed reduced CHG susceptibility, a trend that requires vigilant monitoring.

"The good news is that most bacteria remain vulnerable to CHG, despite the reduced susceptibility. Daily baths with a CHG solution remain effective against life-threatening bloodstream infections," said Suwantarat.

The investigators caution that the clinical implications of their findings remain unclear. For example, antibiotic susceptibility tests are commonly used to determine whether patients will respond to antibiotic treatment. A similar correlation between antiseptic susceptibility and response to an antiseptic are not as well defined. Identifying particular bacteria and settings in which these bacteria will not respond to antiseptic agents used in hospitals is an important next step.
-end-
Nuntra Suwantarat, Karen C. Carroll, Tsigereda Tekle, Tracy Ross, Lisa L. Maragakis, Sara Cosgrove, Aaron M. Milstone. "High Prevalence of Reduced Chlorhexidine Susceptibility in Organisms Causing Central Line-Associated Bloodstream Infections." Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology [35:9] (September 2014).

Published through a partnership between the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America and The University of Chicago Press, Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology provides original, peer-reviewed scientific articles for anyone involved with an infection control or epidemiology program in a hospital or healthcare facility. ICHE is ranked 13 out of 158 journals in its discipline in the latest Web of Knowledge Journal Citation Reports from Thomson Reuters.

SHEA is a professional society representing more than 2,000 physicians and other healthcare professionals globally with expertise in and passion for healthcare epidemiology and infection prevention. SHEA's mission is to prevent and control healthcare-associated infections and advance the field of healthcare epidemiology. The society promotes science and research, develops expert guidelines and guidance for healthcare workers, provides high-quality education, promotes antimicrobial stewardship, encourages transparency in public reporting related to HAIs, works to ensure a safe healthcare environment, and facilitates the exchange of knowledge. SHEA upholds the value and critical contributions of healthcare epidemiology to improving patient care and healthcare worker safety in all healthcare settings. Visit SHEA online at http://www.shea-online.org, http://www.facebook.com/SHEApreventingHAIs and @SHEA_Epi.

Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America

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