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Topical application of human milk reduces umbilical cord separation time and bacterial colonization compared to ethanol in newborns

Background: Umbilical cord infections contribute to the increased morbidity and mortality in newborns of developing countries, where infants are exposed to unhygienic practices. The best umbilical cord treatment after birth is a controversial issue. There are limited data examining the effect of topical application of human milk on newborns’ cord separation and bacterial colonization, which is examined herein and compared to 70% ethanol.

Methods and Findings: One hundred neonates attending Minia University Hospital were enrolled in a quasi-experimental design (50 neonates in each group). Cord separation time was recorded. Microbiological examination including total viable bacterial count (TVC) and identification of the implicated bacterial species was performed at birth, day 3 and at cord separation time. The mean cord separation time in the human milk and alcohol groups were 4.3±1.4 (SD) and 8.2±2.2, respectively (p<0.001). There were significant differences between the two groups in the TVC (p<0.001). The isolated organisms included Staphylococcus epidermidis, Staphylococcus aureus,  Micrococci, Escherichia coli  and Klebsiella species, with higher rates of pathogenic species in the ethanol group.

Conclusion: Topical application of human milk reduces cord-separation time and pathogenic bacterial colonization and can be used as easy, cheap and non invasive methods for umbilical cord care in developing countries.


Ebtsam S Mahrous , Mirret M. Darwish , Soheir A. Dabash , Ibrahim Marie , Sayed F Abdelwahab

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