Efficacy of surgical hand scrub products based on chlorhexidine is largely overestimated without neutralizing agents in the sampling fluid

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Abstract

Background:

Surgical hand antiseptics often contain chlorhexidine gluconate (CHG). There are doubts that the full effect measured for these products might only be achieved after sampling because of a lack of valid neutralizing agents (NAs) in the sampling fluid.

Methods:

We measured the efficacy of Avagard CHG and Hibiclens for 11 applications over 5 days according to the manufacturers' instructions. NAs were added to the sampling fluid and the dilution fluid (group 1) or to only the dilution fluid (group 2). In a third group, NAs were added to the dilution fluid only, and cream was applied after the final scrub on days 1 to 4. Neutralization was validated according to American Society for Testing and Materials International standard 1054 using Staphylococcus epidermidis.

Results:

When NAs were not added to the sampling fluid, both products were very effective, with a mean log10 reduction in flora of 3.32 ± 0.53 for Avagard and 3.68 ± 0.52 for Hibiclens on day 5. When NAs were included in the sampling fluid, however, the immediate efficacy was significantly lower, at 2.75 ± 0.55 and 3.14 ± 0.50, respectively. A lack of NAs in the sampling fluid resulted in overestimation of efficacy by a factor of between 0.3 and 1.1 log10.

Conclusion:

Efficacy studies carried out without NAs in the sampling fluid for products with CHG should be critically assessed.

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