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NIH Record - 75th Anniversary - National Institutes of Health

Results of Trial to Stem Hospital-Acquired Bacterial Infections Published

New findings from a large, randomized clinical trial that compared two infection-control techniques are already being incorporated into practice within the network of U.S. community hospitals where the trial took place. The trial evaluated whether daily bathing with the antiseptic soap chlorhexidine (CHG)—and in those patients with methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), adding the nasal antibiotic mupirocin—more effectively reduced hospital-acquired bacterial infections than bathing with ordinary soap and water. While no statistically significant difference between the two intervention groups was seen within the population overall, the researchers did find that one subset of patients—those with medical devices—experienced a substantial benefit if they received the CHG/mupirocin intervention. 

The ABATE (Active Bathing to Eliminate) infection trial was initiated through NIH’s Common Fund program and was managed by NIAID. Results of the study, which involved about 330,000 adult patients in non-intensive care units in the HCA Healthcare system, appeared Mar. 5 in The Lancet. Dr. Susan S. Huang of the University of California, Irvine, School of Medicine led the research team.

Previous clinical trials in intensive care units had shown that hospital-acquired infections could be dramatically reduced through such practices as CHG bathing, noted Huang. “Because there was a clear benefit with bacterial decolonization in the ICU setting, we pursued this trial to determine if similar interventions would reduce hospital-acquired infections in non-ICU settings, where the majority of such infections occur,” she said. Decolonization refers to the removal of skin-surface bacteria that are normally harmless, but that may enter the bloodstream following surgery or other procedures and cause infection, including life-threatening sepsis.


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