Avondale College of Higher Education academic Associate Professor Brett Mitchell’s externally-funded study of antiseptic cleaning solutions may help prevent catheter-associated infections in hospitals

Antiseptic study to clean and clarify

Friday, March 24, 2017
Hard-to-get grant will help Avondale academic improve infection control and change national guidelines

An Avondale academic’s externally-funded study of antiseptic cleaning solutions may not only help prevent catheter-associated infections in hospitals but also change national guidelines.

Associate Professor Brett Mitchell received a $171,000 grant from the HCF Research Foundation today for his study. “Reducing catheter-associated urinary tract infections in hospitals” is one of only eight projects—from 414 applications—the foundation is funding this year. So, the announcement surprised Mitchell, Director of the Lifestyle Research Centre at Avondale College of Higher Education. “I couldn’t believe it. I was in a bit of shock afterwards.”

The project is important, says Mitchell, because one of his previous studies found nearly two in every 100 patients acquire a urinary tract infection and that these infections cost an extra 380,000 public hospital bed days in Australia each year.

Mitchell will lead a research team of eight, including professorial colleagues from Australian Catholic University, Australian National University, Monash University and Queensland University of Technology. The team will conduct a randomised control study at three hospitals over 32 weeks to evaluate the effectiveness and the cost-effectiveness of cleaning the urethral meatal area—the point where urine exits the urethra—with the antiseptic chlorhexidine before the insertion of a catheter.

A paper published previously by Mitchell systematically reviewed all the available studies of antiseptic cleaning solutions, “but the evidence is inconclusive,” says Mitchell.

What is clear: reducing bacteria around the urethral area has the potential to reduce the risk of catheter-associated urinary tract infections. With about one in four patients receiving a catheter while in hospital—that is hundreds of thousands of catheters a year—the potential benefits are significant.

But what is the best antiseptic to use? “We need a more robust study to answer this question,” says Mitchell. He wrote in his proposal about the lack of clarity: “[It] has resulted in conflicting recommendations for national practice guidelines in the United States and in Australia.”

Mitchell is seeking clarity in part because he is chair of a National Health and Medical Research Council committee revising national infection control guidelines, which includes catheter-associated urinary tract infections. The study may also have worldwide implications for other guidelines and clinical practice. Mitchell spoke to the authors of the United Kingdom’s guidelines at a conference in November. “They said, ‘We hope the project is funded because we can change our guidelines when the evidence comes in.’”

Donations to Avondale’s 2015 Annual Appeal—$30,000 in total—will also provide funding for the project.

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Brenton Stacey

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Brenton is Avondale College of Higher Education’s public relations officer. He brings to the role a decade’s experience as a communicator in publishing, media relations, public relations, radio and television, mostly within the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the South Pacific and its entities.