We conducted a double-blind comparative study on the effectiveness of 80% ethanol (EtOH), with or without chlorhexidine (CHD), in the prevention of neonatal umbilical colonization by Staphylococcus aureus, the most frequently isolated pathogen on the neonatal umbilicus in the early period. A total of 100 neonates born at the National Tokyo Medical Centre from March to May 2000 and nursed at a maternity ward were enrolled. Forty-eight were randomly allocated to the group for whom umbilical cord disinfection was performed using 80% EtOH containing 0.5% CHD (CHD group) and 52 to disinfection with 80% EtOH alone (EtOH group). The mothers of the neonates and the nursing staff were unaware as to which disinfectant was being used. Disinfection of the umbilicus and the surrounding area was done immediately after birth and twice daily thereafter, after bathing and in the evening, throughout the hospitalization period. Specimens for bacterial culture were taken from the umbilical cord and surrounding skin on day 4 or 5 after birth. As a disinfectant susceptibility test, we checked the minimum killing concentration (MKC) of CHD and EtOH. There was no statistically significant difference between the two groups with respect to sex, gestation period, birthweight, APGAR score or delivery method. In the CHD group, S. aureus was isolated from 25% of the patients, while it was isolated from 57.7% in the EtOH group (P<0.001). In the CHD group, 50% of the S. aureus strains were MRSA, compared with 73.3% in the EtOH group (non-significant). All the S. aureus strains were killed by the combination of both CHD and EtOH at the concentrations used. In terms of the MKC90, there was no significant difference between the CHD group and the EtOH group. For the daily care of the neonatal umbilicus, disinfection using 80% EtOH containing CHD was found to be more effective than that using 80% EtOH alone in preventing colonization by S. aureus.
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