Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is a virulent organism causing substantial morbidity and mortality in intensive care units. Chlorhexidine gluconate, a topical antiseptic solution, is effective against a wide spectrum of gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria, including MRSA. Objectives To examine the impact of a bathing protocol using chlorhexidine gluconate and bath basin management on MRSA acquisition in 5 adult intensive care units and to examine the cost differences between chlorhexidine bathing by using the bath-basin method versus using prepackaged chlorhexidine-impregnated washcloths.


The protocol used a 4-oz bottle of 4% chlorhexidine gluconate soap in a bath basin of warm water. Patients in 3 intensive care units underwent active surveillance for MRSA acquisition; patients in 2 other units were monitored for a new positive culture for MRSA at any site 48 hours after admission.


Before the protocol, 132 patients acquired MRSA in 34333 patient days (rate ratio, 3.84). Afterwards, 109 patients acquired MRSA in 41376 patient days (rate ratio, 2.63). The rate ratio difference is 1.46 (95% CI, 1.12–1.90; P = .003). The chlorhexidine soap and bath basin method cost $3.18 as compared with $5.52 for chlorhexidine-impregnated wipes (74% higher).


The chlorhexidine bathing protocol is easy to implement, cost-effective, and led to decreased unit-acquired MRSA rates in a variety of adult intensive care units.

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