Washing hands with soap and water before delivering a newborn infant is associated with a lower rate of neonatal deaths in developing countries, according to a study  conducted in south Nepal by researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore.
“Newborns whose birth attendant washed his or her hands before assisting with delivery had a 25 percent lower risk of death compared with newborns whose birth attendant did not wash his or her hands,” the authors write. “Infants whose mothers washed their hands prior to handling their infant had a 60 percent lower risk of neonatal death compared with those whose mothers did not wash their hands.” Overall, there was a 41 percent lower death rate among newborns exposed to both hand-washing practices.
“In developing countries, where most births take place at home, the concept of washing with soap before delivery to protect against infection is not well understood,” the authors write. “Measures to improve or promote birth attendant and maternal hand-washing could improve neonatal survival rates.”
Funding for the research was provided by grants from the National Institutes of Health, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and U.S Agency for International Development.
 Rhee, V. … [et al.] (2008). Maternal and birth attendant hand washing and neonatal mortality in southern Nepal. Archives of pediatrics and adolescent medicine ; vol. 162, no. 7 ; p. 603-608. Abstract – http://archpedi.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/abstract/162/7/603
Contact: James Tielsch, Department of International Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, USA.