Infection Control & Hospital Epidemiology

Original Article

Chlorhexidine Gluconate Reduces Transmission of Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus USA300 among Marine Recruits

Timothy J. Whitmana1 c1, Carey D. Schletta2, Greg A. Granditsa3, Eugene V. Millara2, Katrin Mendea2a4, Duane R. Hospenthala4, Patrick R. Murraya5 and David R. Tribblea2

a1 Infectious Diseases Service, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Bethesda, Maryland

a2 Infectious Disease Clinical Research Program, Uniformed Services University, Bethesda, Maryland

a3 Division of Biostatistics, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota

a4 San Antonio Military Medical Center, Fort Sam Houston, Texas

a5 National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland


Background. Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) pulsed-field type (PFT) USA300 causes skin and soft tissue infections in military recruits and invasive disease in hospitals. Chlorhexidine gluconate (CHG) is used to reduce MRSA colonization and infection. The impact of CHG on the molecular epidemiology of MRSA is not known.

Objective. To evaluate the impact of 2% CHG—impregnated cloths on the molecular epidemiology of MRSA colonization.

Design. Cluster-randomized, double-blind, controlled trial.

Setting. Marine Officer Candidate School, Quantico, Virginia, in 2007.

Participants. Military recruits.

Intervention. Thrice-weekly application of CHG-impregnated or control (Comfort Bath; Sage) cloths over the entire body.

Measurements. Baseline and serial (every 2 weeks) nasal and/or axillary swab samples were assessed for MRSA colonization. Molecular analysis was performed with pulsed-field gel electrophoresis.

Results. During training, 77 subjects (4.9%) acquired MRSA, 26 (3.3%) in the CHG group and 51 (6.5%) in the control group (P = .004). When analyzed for PFT, 24 subjects (3.1%) in the control group but only 6 subjects (0.8%) in the CHG group (P = .001) had USA300. Of the 167 colonizing isolates recovered from 77 subjects, 99 were recovered from the control group, including USA300 (40.4%), USA800 (38.4%), USA1000 (12.1%), and USA100 (6.1%), and 68 were recovered from the CHG group, including USA800 (51.5%), USA100 (23.5%), and USA300 (13.2%).

Conclusions. CHG decreased the transmission of MRSA—more specifically, USA300—among military recruits. In addition, USA300 and USA800 outcompeted other MRSA PFTs at incident colonization. Future studies should evaluate the broad-based use of CHG to decrease transmission of USA300 in hospital settings.

(Received January 24 2012)

(Accepted March 27 2012)


c1 Department of Infectious Diseases, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, 8901 Wisconsin Avenue, Bethesda MD 20889 (