A new study underway at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health in Madison will test whether two common antiseptics can protect doctors, nurses and other frontline health care workers from getting COVID-19.
So far, medical workers have used hand-washing, gloves, masks and other PPE, but no specific antiseptics or medications have been proven to protect them from COVID-19.
Since the pandemic began early this year, health care workers have accounted for almost 114,000 cases of COVID-19 in the U.S., including 576 deaths.
“We use these antiseptics quite a lot,” said Nasia Safdar, medical director of infection control at UW Health and one of the leaders of the study along with Dan Shirley, medical director of infection control at UnityPoint Health-Meriter.
The study will test povidone iodine and chlorhexidine gluconate, antiseptics in use for decades. Research published earlier this month in the journal Infectious Diseases and Therapy found evidence that povidone iodine is fast and effective in fighting the new coronavirus.
Often health care workers use the two antiseptics before and after surgery to prevent infections. Although both have been proven to be safe, they can, in rare cases, cause a rash as an allergic reaction. Any workers who have had prior allergic reactions to either compound will not be allowed to participate.
Safdar said the 10-week study will involve at least 100, and possibly up to 500 health care workers who care for suspected or confirmed COVID-19 patients.
There will be no separate control group. Instead, each worker will act as his or her own control, using the antiseptics for three of the 10 weeks and not using them for the other seven.
Each week that they receive the antiseptics, participants will rinse their mouths four times a day with the chlorhexidine gluconate and apply the povidone iodine with nasal swabs twice a day.
Participants are being asked to report any symptoms of COVID-19 and to allow shallow nostril swabs to test for the new coronavirus.
Anyone interested in participating in the study can email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 608-262-6560.