Components of clean delivery kits and newborn mortality in the Zambia Chlorhexidine Application Trial (ZamCAT): An observational study

PLoS Med. 2021 May 5;18(5):e1003610. doi: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1003610. eCollection 2021 May.


Background: Neonatal infection, a leading cause of neonatal death in low- and middle-income countries, is often caused by pathogens acquired during childbirth. Clean delivery kits (CDKs) have shown efficacy in reducing infection-related perinatal and neonatal mortality. However, there remain gaps in our current knowledge, including the effect of individual components, the timeline of protection, and the benefit of CDKs in home and facility deliveries.

Methods and findings: A post hoc secondary analysis was performed using nonrandomized data from the Zambia Chlorhexidine Application Trial (ZamCAT), a community-based, cluster-randomized controlled trial of chlorhexidine umbilical cord care in Southern Province of Zambia from February 2011 to January 2013. CDKs, containing soap, gloves, cord clamps, plastic sheet, razor blade, matches, and candle, were provided to all pregnant women. Field monitors made a home-based visit to each participant 4 days postpartum, during which CDK use and newborn outcomes were ascertained. Logistic regression was used to study the association between different CDK components and neonatal mortality rate (NMR). Of 38,579 deliveries recorded during the study, 36,996 newborns were analyzed after excluding stillbirths and those with missing information. Gloves, cord clamps, and plastic sheets were the most frequently used CDK item combination in both home and facility deliveries. Each of the 7 CDK components was associated with lower NMR in users versus nonusers. Adjusted logistic regression showed that use of gloves (odds ratio [OR] 0.33, 95% CI 0.24-0.46), cord clamp (OR 0.51, 95% CI 0.38-0.68), plastic sheet (OR 0.46, 95% CI 0.34-0.63), and razor blade (OR 0.69, 95% CI 0.53-0.89) were associated with lower risk of newborn mortality. Use of gloves and cord clamp were associated with reduced risk of immediate newborn death (<24 hours). Reduction in risk of early newborn death (1-6 days) was associated with use of gloves, cord clamps, plastic sheets, and razor blades. In examining perinatal mortality (stillbirth plus neonatal death in the first 7 days of life), similar patterns were observed. There was no significant reduction in risk of late newborn mortality (7-28 days) with CDK use. Study limitations included potential recall bias of CDK use and inability to establish causality, as this was a secondary observational study.

Conclusions: CDK use was associated with reductions in early newborn mortality at both home and facility deliveries, especially when certain kit components were used. While causality could not be established in this nonrandomized secondary analysis, given these beneficial associations, scaling up the use of CDKs in rural areas of sub-Saharan Africa may improve neonatal outcomes.

Trial registration: Name of trial: Zambia Chlorhexidine Application Trial (ZamCAT) Name of registry: Trial number: NCT01241318.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Observational Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Infective Agents, Local / therapeutic use*
  • Chlorhexidine / therapeutic use*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant Mortality*
  • Infant, Newborn*
  • Male
  • Perinatal Death / prevention & control*
  • Perinatal Mortality
  • Zambia


  • Anti-Infective Agents, Local
  • Chlorhexidine

Associated data