Povidone-iodine for ophthalmia neonatorum prophylaxis

Am J Ophthalmol. 1994 Dec 15;118(6):701-6. doi: 10.1016/s0002-9394(14)72547-4.


Purpose: The agents currently used to prevent ophthalmia neonatorum are less than optimal, with reports indicating evidence of bacterial resistance, ineffectiveness, and toxicity. Povidone-iodine ophthalmic solution, which has been shown to be effective in the preoperative preparation of the eye, generates no resistance, is an effective antimicrobial agent, and has low toxicity. We evaluated the effectiveness and safety of povidone-iodine for ophthalmia neonatorum prophylaxis.

Methods: A bacterial culture was taken from the conjunctiva of each eye of 100 infants within 30 minutes of birth. A drop of 2.5% povidone-iodine solution was then placed on one eye, while the other eye received either one drop of silver nitrate 1% ophthalmic solution or 0.5% erythromycin ointment. Conjunctival bacterial cultures were again taken two to four hours after birth. At each culture and at 24 hours after birth, the eyes were examined for toxic changes. To measure the effectiveness of the medications, the number of bacterial colony-forming units and species from each culture was compared.

Results: All three agents significantly reduced the number of colony-forming units, but povidone-iodine caused the most significant decrease. The number of species was reduced significantly by povidone-iodine (P = .00051) and silver nitrate (P = .007), with povidone-iodine yielding the most significant decrease. Erythromycin did not significantly reduce the number of species. Silver nitrate demonstrated more ocular toxicity at the 24-hour determination point than did either of the other two medications (P < .001).

Conclusions: Povidone-iodine 2.5% ophthalmic solution is an effective antibacterial agent on the conjunctiva of newborns and causes less toxicity than silver nitrate.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Controlled Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Colony Count, Microbial
  • Erythromycin / therapeutic use
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Ophthalmia Neonatorum / prevention & control*
  • Pilot Projects
  • Povidone-Iodine / therapeutic use*
  • Silver Nitrate / therapeutic use


  • Erythromycin
  • Povidone-Iodine
  • Silver Nitrate