The Medical Letter on Drugs and Therapeutics
Clarification: Hand Hygiene and CDAD
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Med Lett Drugs Ther. 2007 Jan 29;49(1253):9
 Select a term to see related articles  2007   alcohol-based hand rubs   c diff   c difficile   CDAD   Chlorhexidine   Clarification Hand Hygiene and CDAD   Clostridium difficile   Clostridium difficile associated disease   hand hygiene   In brief   issue 1253   January 29   page 8   volume 49 

In the recent Medical Letter article on the treatment of Clostridium difficile–associated disease (CDAD) we wrote: “Healthcare workers caring for patients with C. difficile infection should follow contact isolation precautions, especially use of gloves and hand washing with soap and water after glove removal. Alcohol-based products such as hand sanitizers will not eradicate C. difficile spores.”1 One reader pointed out that alcoholbased products do eradicate some C. difficile spores and have been invaluable against other pathogens.

In an unpublished study available as an abstract, both alcohol-based hand gels and chlorhexidine washes reduced the number of C. difficile spores on contaminated hands, but chlorhexidine was more effective (8 spores/cm2 remaining vs. 30-44 spores/cm2 with 3 formulations of alcohol-based hand gels).2 A previous study showed that chlorhexidine was not different from soap in removal of spores.3 Alcohol itself should have no effect on spores (purified spores are frequently stored in alcohol), but the mechanical action of washing hands with alcohol-based products may be effective in removing them. The CDC has recommended that healthcare workers caring for patients with known or suspected CDAD use contact precautions and perform hand hygiene with either an alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water, except in an outbreak setting, where exclusive use of soap and water should be considered.4

1. Treatment of Clostridium difficile–associated disease (CDAD). Med Lett Drugs Ther 2006; 48:89.

2. J Leischner et al. Effect of alcohol hand gels and chlorhexidine hand wash in removing spores of Clostridium difficile (CD) from hands. Intersci Conf Antimicrob Agent Chemother (ICAAC), Washington, DC 2005, abstract LB-29-2005.

3. K Bettin et al. Effectiveness of liquid soap vs. chlorhexidine gluconate for the removal of Clostridium difficile from bare hands and gloved hands. Infect Control Hosp Epidemiol 1994; 15:697.

4. CDC. Clostridium difficile information for healthcare providers (; accessed January 22, 2007).

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