A Meta-Analysis of the Published Literature on the Effectiveness of Antimicrobial Soaps

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The goal of this research was to conduct a systematic quantitative analysis of the existing data in the literature in order to determine if there is a difference between antimicrobial and nonantimicrobial soaps and to identify the methodological factors that might affect this difference. Data on hand washing efficacy and experimental conditions (sample size, wash duration, soap quantity, challenge organism, inoculum size, and neutralization method) from published studies were compiled and transferred to a relational database. A total of 25 publications, containing 374 observations, met the study selection criteria. The majority of the studies included fewer than 15 observations with each treatment and included a direct comparison between nonantimicrobial soap and antimicrobial soap. Although differences in efficacy between antimicrobial and nonantimicrobial soap were small (∼0.5-log CFU reduction difference), antimicrobial soap produced consistently statistically significantly greater reductions. This difference was true for any of the antimicrobial compounds investigated where n was >20 (chlorhexidine gluconate, iodophor, triclosan, or povidone). Average log reductions were statistically significantly greater (∼2 log CFU) when either gram-positive or gram-negative transient organisms were deliberately added to hands compared with experiments done with resident hand flora (∼0.5 log CFU). Our findings support the importance of using a high initial inoculum on the hands, well above the detection limit. The inherent variability in hand washing seen in the published literature underscores the importance of using a sufficiently large sample size to detect differences when they occur.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.4315/0362-028X.JFP-11-122

Affiliations: 1: Food Science Department, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey 08901, USA 2: Food Science Department, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey 08901, USA. schaffner@aesop.rutgers.edu

Publication date: November 1, 2011

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    First published in 1937, the Journal of Food Protection®, is a refereed monthly publication. Each issue contains scientific research and authoritative review articles reporting on a variety of topics in food science pertaining to food safety and quality. The Journal is internationally recognized as the leading publication in the field of food microbiology with a readership exceeding 11,000 scientists from 70 countries. The Journal of Food Protection® is indexed in Index Medicus, Current Contents, BIOSIS, PubMed, Medline, and many others.

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