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Disinfectants not enough to kill harmful microbes from hospital surfaces

IANS Jan 12, 2024

Despite compliance with recommended disinfection protocols, high-touch hospital surfaces, bed rails, workstations, and other frequently touched surfaces contain microbial contamination, including harmful pathogens, according to a study.

The findings, published 11th Jan in the American Journal of Infection Control (AJIC), shed light on the persistent challenge of reducing healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) and indicate that innovative strategies may be needed for more effective disinfection of these surfaces.

The study was conducted at the Central Texas Veterans Healthcare System, where researchers collected samples from 400 surfaces between June and July of 2022.

They focused on high-touch surfaces such as simulation manikins used for resuscitation practice, workstations on wheels, breakroom tables, bed rails, and computer keyboards at nurse's stations. All of these surfaces were found to harbour bacteria, and manikins and bed rails also had the most diverse types of bacteria.

A total of 60 different kinds of bacteria were identified across all samples, including 18 well-known human pathogens and a number of bacteria that can be pathogenic to humans under certain circumstances.

The most common types of known pathogenic bacteria included Enterococcus, Staphylococcus aureus, Streptococcus, Escherichia coli, and Klebsiella aerogenes, among others.

Some of the potentially pathogenic types of bacteria have been associated with central-line-associated bloodstream infections, meningitis, and endocarditis.

About half of the bacteria identified through these samples were also found in clinical samples collected from patients during 2022.

“It is a continuing frustration to healthcare professionals that HAIs persist despite rigorous attention to disinfection practices,” said Piyali Chatterjee, Research Scientist at Central Texas Veterans Healthcare System.

“Our study clearly shows the bioburden associated with high-touch hospital surfaces -- including simulation manikins, which are not typically regarded as a risk because patients rarely touch them -- and indicates that we must do better in protecting the health of our patients and our hospital employees,” she added.

The new study demonstrates current best practices in routine hospital disinfection may not be sufficient to prevent the spread of pathogens, particularly for surfaces that are frequently touched by many different people.

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