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OBJECTIVES: To determine whether the daily use of 5% tea tree oil (TTO) body wash (Novabac 5% Skin Wash) compared with standard care [Johnson's Baby Softwash (JBS)] had a lower incidence of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) colonization. PATIENTS: The study setting was two intensive care units (ICUs; mixed medical, surgical and trauma) in Northern Ireland between October 2007 and July 2009. The study population comprised 391 patients who were randomized to JBS or TTO body wash. METHODS: This was a Phase 2/3, prospective, open-label, randomized, controlled trial. TRIAL REGISTRATION: ISRCTN65190967. The primary outcome was new MRSA colonization during ICU stay. Secondary outcomes included the incidence of MRSA bacteraemia and maximum increase in sequential organ failure assessment score. RESULTS: A total of 445 patients were randomized to the study. After randomization, 54 patients were withdrawn; 30 because of a positive MRSA screen at study entry, 11 due to lack of consent, 11 were inappropriately randomized and 2 had adverse reactions. Thirty-nine (10%) patients developed new MRSA colonization (JBS n = 22, 11.2%; TTO body wash n = 17, 8.7%). The difference in percentage colonized (2.5%, 95% CI - 8.95 to 3.94; P = 0.50) was not significant. The mean maximum increase in sequential organ failure assessment score was not significant (JBS 1.44, SD 1.92; TTO body wash 1.28, SD 1.79; P = 0.85) and no study patients developed MRSA bacteraemia. CONCLUSIONS: Compared with JBS, TTO body wash cannot be recommended as an effective means of reducing MRSA colonization.

Original publication




Journal article


J Antimicrob Chemother

Publication Date





1193 - 1199


Adult, Aged, Aged, 80 and over, Anti-Bacterial Agents, Bacteremia, Carrier State, Critical Illness, Disinfectants, Disinfection, Female, Humans, Incidence, Intensive Care Units, Male, Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus, Middle Aged, Northern Ireland, Staphylococcal Infections, Tea Tree Oil, Treatment Outcome