Standard decontamination methods may not be enough to stop a dangerous hospital bug, known as Clostridium difficile.
In a new study, researchers followed recommended procedures but found that surgical gowns, stainless steel surfaces and vinyl floors in hospitals were still contaminated with the C. difficile bacteria.
"The spores of the bacteria were able to grow after decontamination. This shows that spores are becoming resistant and we need to reconsider how we decontaminate and employ hygiene measures in hospitals," said principal investigator Tina Joshi. She's a lecturer in molecular microbiology at the University of Plymouth in England.
C. difficile infection can cause diarrhea, fever, rapid heartbeat, intestinal inflammation and kidney failure.
Each year in the United States, about half a million people are infected with C. difficile, resulting in 29,000 deaths. Such infections are common among older adults in hospitals and in long-term care facilities.
This study was prompted by a U.S. case in which hospital gowns contaminated with the deadly 027 strain of C. difficile were suspected of transmitting the bacteria.
The study results were published online July 12 in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology.
For the study, the researchers applied C. difficile spores in sterilized water to surgical gowns for different lengths of time: 10 seconds, 30 seconds, 1 minute, 5 minutes and 10 minutes. This method was used to simulate the transfer of C. difficile-containing body fluids to gowns.
The length of contact time did not affect the number of spores recovered from the gowns, suggesting that the spore transfer to the gowns occurred within the first 10 seconds of contact, according to the study authors.
The gowns were then treated with a recommended disinfectant containing 1,000 ppm chlorine for 10 minutes. The disinfectant did not clear the gowns of C. difficile.
That shows "that the gowns can pick up and retain the spores," Joshi said in a journal news release.
Spores on stainless steel and vinyl flooring also remained viable after treatment with the disinfectant, the findings showed.
"Due to this resistance, it may be prudent to reconsider how much biocide we use currently, and to ensure infection control is standardized. This work can be applied to hospitals anywhere in the world, and should help inform future guidelines on infection control and biocides," Joshi concluded.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on C. difficile.
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