Isopropyl alcohol is as efficient as chlorhexidine to prevent contamination of blood cultures

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False-positive blood cultures can lead to unnecessary risks and misuse of antibiotics; to reduce rates of false-positives, it would be useful to determine whether use of an antiseptic with a prolonged effect is required.


Clinical study of efficacy (blinded and randomized) to compare the rate of blood culture contamination when skin antisepsis was performed with 70% isopropyl alcohol or 2% chlorhexidine gluconate in 70% isopropyl alcohol in 2 hospitals. Patients aged 16 years or older with suspected bloodstream infection who were allocated in the emergency room, internal medicine ward, or intensive care unit were included.


Five of 563 (0.9%) blood cultures from the isopropyl arm and 10 of 539 (1.9%) from the chlorhexidine arm were contaminated. No significant differences were observed among the rate of contamination (χ2 = 1.27; P = .3) or the relative risk of contamination (relative risk = 2.09; 95% confidence interval, 0.72-6.07; P = .2).


The rates of blood contamination were not different when isopropyl alcohol and chlorhexidine were compared. Isopropyl alcohol could be used for skin antisepsis before blood collection.

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