Efficacy and safety of whole-body chlorhexidine gluconate (CHG) cleansing in reducing bacterial skin colonisation of hospitalised neonates: A pilot trial

Does increasing concentration and frequency of applying CHG antiseptic to babies’ skin lead to a reduction in bacterial growth and does the addition of a skin softener improve the skin condition and safety of applying CHG?

What is this study about?

Neonatal sepsis is a substantial cause of neonatal mortality especially in low- and middle-income settings. A substantial proportion of these infections are healthcare-associated due to transfer of harmful bacteria in hospital environments. New prevention strategies are urgently needed to achieve global reductions in neonatal mortality.

Antiseptics such as chlorhexidine (CHG) reduce the bacterial load on the skin and may reduce the risk of neonatal sepsis and thereby reduce neonatal mortality. CHG is commonly used for skin disinfection in newborn babies for invasive procedures, and so wider application could potentially prevent colonisation with multidrug-resistant, hospital acquired bacteria.

In addition, it is thought that emollients may act as a barrier to bacterial invasion, but the potential benefit and safety of combining chlorhexidine with an emollient, potentially reducing both bacterial colonisation and invasion, has not been explored. The aim of this study is to look at the change in skin bacterial load for different concentrations of CHG with or without the application of emollient.

Contact details

Who is funding the study?

This study is funded by the MRC/NIHR/DfID/Wellcome Joint Global Health Trials Call 9 - Trial Development Grant.

When is it taking place?

The trial opened in 2020 and ran until 2022.

Where is it taking place?

Hospitals in Bangladesh and South Africa.

Who is included?

Low birth weight newborn babies who are in hospital.