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Effect of chlorhexidine cleansing on healthcare-associated infections in neonates: a systematic review and meta-analysis


Background Healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) have a significant impact on neonatal morbidity, mortality and long-term prognosis, which have a high incidence in neonates. Many studies have shown that chlorhexidine cleansing is effective in reducing HAIs in adults, but the effect of chlorhexidine cleansing on HAIs in neonates remains controversial.

Aim The purpose of this study was to conduct a systematic review and meta-analysis of the effect of chlorhexidine cleansing on HAIs in neonates. The protocol of this review has been registered with the PROSPERO international prospective register of systematic reviews.

Methods A systematic literature search was performed on five medical literature databases, namely MEDLINE, Web of Science, Embase, Scopus and Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature (CINAHL), published up until 3 March 2021. In the end, six studies were eligible for inclusion, including four randomised controlled trials and two quasi-experimental studies. Version 2 of the Cochrane tool for assessing risk of bias in randomised trials and the Joanna Briggs Institute critical appraisal checklist for quasi-experimental studies were used for quality assessment. Pooled risk ratios (RRs) and their associated 95% CIs were calculated using the fixed effects model (I2 <50%) or the random effects model (I2 ≥50%).

Findings and conclusions The results of the meta-analysis revealed that chlorhexidine cleansing had no significant effect on neonatal sepsis (RR: 0.49, 95% CI 0.18 to 1.38, p=0.18, I2=0%), but significantly reduced neonatal skin bacterial colonisation (RR: 0.61, 95% CI 0.42 to 0.90, p=0.01, I2=50%). In addition, this systematic review showed that chlorhexidine cleansing could significantly reduce central line-associated bloodstream infection in neonates based on large-sample studies. However, more studies are needed to determine the optimal concentration and frequency of chlorhexidine cleansing.

PROSPERO registration number CRD42021243858.

  • neonatology
  • sepsis
  • infectious disease medicine

Data availability statement

All data relevant to the study are included in the article or uploaded as supplementary information.

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