Bacterial Contamination of Antiseptics, Disinfectants and Hand Hygiene Products in Healthcare Facilities in High-Income Countries: A Scoping Review

Palpouguini Lompo, Anne-Sophie Heroes, Esenam Agbobli, Vera Kühne, Halidou Tinto, Dissou Affolabi, Jan Jacobs

Research output: Contribution to journalA1: Web of Science-articlepeer-review


This scoping review addresses bacterial contamination of antiseptics, low-level disinfectants, and hand hygiene products in healthcare settings in high-income countries. Over 70 years, 114 articles were found: 68 outbreaks, 13 pseudo-outbreaks and 33 cross-sectional surveys. Outbreaks affected median 29 (1–151) patients, extended for 26 (1–156) weeks and had a case fatality of 0.0% (0.0–60.0%). Most (72.8%) (pseudo-)outbreaks were caused by water-based chlorhexidine (CHG), quaternary ammonium compounds (QUAT) and the combination CHG–QUAT. Contaminating bacteria were nonfermentative Gram-negative rods (87.6% (pseudo-)outbreaks), mainly Burkholderia cepacia, Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Achromobacter spp.) and Enterobacterales (29.6%, 24/81), mostly Serratia spp.). Risk factors were at the level of the bacteria (natural resistance to CHG and QUAT), containers (design and functioning, presence of cork and cotton, biofilm formation), preparation (nonsterile water, overdilution) and practices (too long expiry dates, inappropriate container reprocessing, topping up of containers and deviation from procedures). Transmission occurred through direct contact (antiseptics), contact with semicritical items (disinfectants) and were handborne (soaps). During recent decades, reports of soap contaminated with Enterobacterales emerged and nationwide outbreaks of intrinsically contaminated CHG occurred. Outstanding issues comprise intrinsic contamination, implementation of antiseptic stewardship, the role of unit doses and sterile products, transmission studies, biofilm control and understanding healthcare providers’ perceptions.
Original languageEnglish
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)136-175
Number of pages39
Publication statusPublished - Jun-2023


  • B230-bacteriology

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