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Gloves On trial

Sydney Local Health District

  • Translational Research Grants Scheme
Date Funded:
  • 13 June, 2019
Chief Investigator/s:
  • Dr. Rowena McMullan
  • Professor Adrienne Gordon

Infection in preterm babies (babies born early) remains a common problem in neonatal units – 1 in 4 babies born at less than 29 weeks of pregnancy develops a serious infection at some time during their stay. Preterm babies are vulnerable to infection, and the impact of infection can be far-reaching: not only can infection kill babies, but can also contribute to poorer health and development when babies grow up into childhood. It is crucial that neonatal units try to reduce infection rates.

One of the main causes of infection comes from bugs that are usually carried on babies’ or healthcare workers’ skin. These bugs are carried harmlessly on the skin, but if they get into the bloodstream they can make babies unwell. The ‘Gloves On’ study is looking at a simple intervention to try to prevent infection: using gloves when staff touch babies in addition to the handwashing that we would normally do before we touch any baby. Gloves are not used routinely at present. We think using gloves would reduce infection by lowering the rate of transmission of bugs from healthcare workers’ hands to babies and back again. We would like to assess the impact of using gloves on infection rates in preterm babies, as well as making sure it is safe for babies, and safe and acceptable to the families and everyone who uses them.

This simple and cheap intervention would be easy to introduce into every neonatal unit if it is shown to be successful and cost-effective. This would mean reduced numbers of infections in fragile preterm babies, with improved survival rates. Lower infection rates means shorter times in hospital for the babies and reduced costs for hospitals. Lower infection rates would also improve health and development of these babies when they grow into young children, making life better for families around NSW.