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A study, published in Infection Control & Hospital Epidemiology, compared the antimicrobial activity of two hand hygiene products — ethanol plus chlorhexidine gluconate and ethanol only — when used in an intensive care unit.

Researchers conducted the prospective, randomized, double-blinded, crossover study in three ICUs at a large teaching hospital. Fifty-one healthcare workers were enrolled in the study. The workers were randomized 1:1 to either product. Researchers obtained hand prints immediately after the product was applied and again after spending four to seven minutes in the ICU common areas prior to entering a patient room or leaving the area.

The study shows ethanol plus CHG product use on bare hands was associated with significantly lower recovery of aerobic colony- forming units, both immediately after use and after spending time in ICU common areas. The ethanol plus CHG sanitizer was also associated with significantly lower aerobic bacterial counts on hands of healthcare workers as compared to the ethanol-only product.
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An alcohol-based hand hygiene product containing chlorhexidine gluconate was more effective than another product containing ethanol alone, according to recent data.

“Our findings are consistent with previous studies demonstrating that the persistent antimicrobial activity of [chlorhexidine gluconate (CHG)] may be beneficial in reducing bacterial contamination on hands up to several hours after application,” Abhishek Deshpande, MD, PhD, of the department of infectious diseases at Cleveland Clinic’s Medicine Institute, and colleagues wrote in Infection Control&Hospital Epidemiology.

Health care workers’ hands are considered asignificant source of hospital-acquired infections and account for an estimated 20% to 40% of device-related nosocomial infections, according to the researchers.Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are recommended before and after patient contact to reduce the risk for infection. CHG is used in some hand sanitizers because of its broad-spectrum activity against gram-positive and gram- negative bacteria, yeasts and enveloped viruses.