Enhancing blood donor skin disinfection using natural oils

Alabdullatif M, Boujezza I, Mekni M, Taha M, Kumaran D, Yi QL, Landoulsi A, Ramirez-Arcos S
Transfusion, 2017


Effective donor skin disinfection is essential in preventing bacterial contamination of blood components with skin flora bacteria like Staphylococcus epidermidis. Cell aggregates of S. epidermidis (biofilms) are found on the skin and are resistant to the commonly used donor skin disinfectants chlorhexidine-gluconate and isopropyl alcohol. It has been demonstrated that essential oils synergistically enhance the antibacterial activity of chlorhexidine-gluconate. The objective of this study was to test plant-extracted essential oils in combination with chlorhexidine-gluconate or chlorhexidine-gluconate plus isopropyl alcohol for their ability to eliminate S. epidermidis biofilms.


The composition of oils extracted from Artemisia herba-alba, Lavandula multifida, Origanum marjoram, Rosmarinus officinalis, and Thymus capitatus was analyzed using gas chromatography-mass spectrometry. A rabbit model was used to assess skin irritation caused by the oils. In addition, the anti-biofilm activity of the oils used alone or in combination with chlorhexidine-gluconate or chlorhexidine-gluconate plus isopropyl alcohol was tested against S. epidermidis biofilms.


Essential oil concentrations 10%, 20%, and 30% were chosen for anti-biofilm assays, because skin irritation was observed at concentrations greater than 30%. All oils except for O. marjoram had anti-biofilm activity at these three concentrations. L. multifida synergistically enhanced the anti-biofilm activity of chlorhexidine-gluconate and resulted in the highest anti-biofilm activity observed when combined with chlorhexidine-gluconate plus isopropyl alcohol. Gas chromatography-mass spectrometry revealed that the main component contributing to the activity of L. multifida oil was a natural terpene alcohol called linalool.


The anti-biofilm activity of chlorhexidine-gluconate plus isopropyl alcohol can be greatly enhanced by L. multifida oil or linalool. Therefore, these components could potentially be used to improve blood donor skin disinfection.


Alabdullatif M, Boujezza I, Mekni M et al. Enhancing blood donor skin disinfection using natural oils. Transfusion. 2017 Sep 14. doi: 10.1111/trf.14298.

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