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Effect of Microbicidal Wipes on Neonatal Sepsis Assessed

Study suggests vaginal and neonatal wipes do not prevent bacterial colonization

TUESDAY, Oct. 20 (HealthDay News) -- Chlorhexidine vaginal and neonatal wipes are ineffective in preventing sepsis and bacterial colonization of newborns, according to a study published online Oct. 20 in The Lancet.

Clare L. Cutland, M.D., from the University of Witwatersrand in Soweto, South Africa, and colleagues randomly assigned 8,011 pregnant women to chlorhexidine vaginal wipes or external genitalia water wipes during active labor. Their 8,129 newborns were given a full-body wash or a foot wash (control) with chlorhexidine at birth. Lower vaginal swabs and neonatal skin swabs were taken after delivery from 5,144 mothers to assess bacterial colonization.

The researchers found that the rates of neonatal sepsis were similar in the chlorhexidine and control groups (3 versus 4 percent). Babies born to mothers in the chlorhexidine and control groups also had similar rates of colonization with group B streptococcus (54 versus 55 percent). Hospital admission rates were also similar (119 versus 121 per 1,000 births). Neonatal mortality was significantly lower in the chlorhexidine group (8.3 versus 12.8 per 1,000 births) but mainly for very early deaths occurring within hours of birth, at which time the main cause of death was birth asphyxia.

"Although several trials have raised hopes that chlorhexidine vaginal and neonatal cleansing would be beneficial in saving the lives of newborn babies, the results from our trial suggest that use of chlorhexidine wipes is unlikely to reduce neonatal mortality from vertically acquired sepsis," Cutland and colleagues conclude.

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