In the Journals

CHG-treated washcloths reduced S. aureus carriage in US jails

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December 1, 2014

Distributing washcloths treated with a skin cleanser to jail detainees significantly reduced the carriage of Staphylococcus aureus, according to the results of a randomized controlled trial.

“Detainees in US jails are at high risk for skin infections caused by methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA) and methicillin-susceptible S. aureus,” study researcher Michael Z. David, MD, PhD, of the department of medicine at the University of Chicago, said in a press release. “While the use of [chlorhexidine gluconate (CHG)] has been well studied in the health care setting, there has been limited research for it in this high-risk population.”

In the study, 4,196 detainees in 68 detention divisions, or tanks, in the Dallas County Jail system were randomly assigned to one of three groups:

  • detainees who received disposable washcloths containing the skin cleanser CHG to clean their entire skin surface three times a week for 6 months
  • detainees who received identical washcloths containing only water
  • those who received no skin treatment

The researchers collected nares and hand cultures at baseline and at 2 and 6 months.

At baseline, S. aureus was isolated from 41.2% and MRSA from 8% of 947 detainees. At 6 months, the presence of MRSA in particular was not significantly reduced in either the control or intervention arms, but carriage of any type of S. aureus at that time was 51.1% in detainees who received no skin treatment, compared with 40.7% of those who used CHG-treated cloths (absolute risk reduction=10.4%; 95% CI, 0.01%-20.1%) and 42.8% of those assigned water-soaked cloths (absolute risk reduction=8.3%; 95% CI, –1.4% to 18%).

“Our findings suggest a promising and inexpensive intervention that may decrease S. aureus colonization in this high-risk group,” David said in the release.

Disclosure: David and another researcher report research funding from Sage Products.

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