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Aug 13, 2014 07:21 PM EDT

Bacteria Growing More Resistant to Common Antiseptic

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Bacteria that cause life-threatening illnesses and bloodstream infections may be less susceptible to common antiseptic, according to a recent study.

Researchers from Johns Hopkins found that certain bacteria is growing increasingly resistant to a common hospital antiseptic.

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," Nuntra Suwantarat, lead author, said in a statement. "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."

For the study, researchers 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," Suwantarat said.

The investigators caution that the clinical implications of their findings remain unclear and more research is needed. Identifying particular bacteria and settings in which these bacteria will not respond to antiseptic agents used in hospitals is an important next step.

The findings were recently published in the September issue of Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology.

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