Date of Award


Document Type



Edith Cowan University

Degree Name

Bachelor of Nursing Honours


Faculty of Health and Human Sciences

First Supervisor

Dr Patricia Percival

Second Supervisor

Sue Nikoletti


For the past 40 years midwives and neonatal nurses have been applying antistaphylococcal cream to newborns, to reduce the risk of Staphylocccus aureus (Staph. aureus) infections. The purpose of this study was to determine whether there was any· difference in the incidence of clinical signs of infection in newborns, untreated or treated with a topical application of the currently used antistaphylococcal cream chlorhexidine 1%. The experimental design compared two groups of randomly assigned newborns, using an observation chart based on indicators of infection. Observations were recorded twice ~ day for four days. Any specific or nonspecific signs of infection that were clearly featured by the newborns were referred to a physician and infections were confirmed by laboratory studies. The data were analysed using a statistical test of proportions, where the z statistic was calculated. Overall, clinical signs of infection were detected in seven newborns, four from the chlorhexidine group and three from the non-chlorhexidine group. There was no significant statistical difference in the incidence of signs of clinical infection in the two groups. The withdrawal of the cream from use in healthy newborns would have the following implications for nursing practice (a) the reduced disturbance to the development of the newborn's protective normal bacterial flora, and (b) the prevention of unnecessary cost in terms of nurses' time and creams. Further research is recommended with a larger sample to substantiate the present study.