WHO adds 7.1% chlorhexidine digluconate for umbilical cord care to essential medicines list

July 18, 2013 by PATH

PATH's work helps pave the way for broad use of chlorhexidine to prevent deadly neonatal infections

The World Health Organization (WHO) has added 7.1% chlorhexidine digluconate, an antiseptic used to clean umbilical cords, to its Model List of Essential Medicines for Children.

WHO’s decision to include the product is an important step in encouraging its introduction for umbilical cord care in low-resource settings worldwide. The WHO list serves as a guide for essential medicines lists developed by countries and institutions.

Protecting newborns from fatal infections

Each year, approximately 3 million newborns die globally, and infection causes approximately 13% of these deaths. Lack of hygiene and antiseptics at birth and in the first week of life increase the risk of deadly and preventable infections.

Community‐based randomized controlled trials in Bangladesh, Nepal, and Pakistan have demonstrated that the application of 7.1% chlorhexidine digluconate (delivering 4% chlorhexidine) to the umbilical cord stump prevents infection and saves lives.

Working to expand access to chlorhexidine

PATH, as the secretariat of the Chlorhexidine Working Group, leads an international collaboration of organizations committed to advancing the use of 7.1% chlorhexidine digluconate for umbilical cord care through advocacy and technical assistance. PATH is working to establish manufacturing in selected African countries to increase availability of the product at affordable pricing.

Currently, two forms of the product are available from UNICEF and a manufacturer in Nepal.

More information

Posted July 18, 2013.