Nearly one in four healthcare workers' hands were found to be contaminated with the drug-resistant Clostridium difficile bacteria after treating infected patients, despite glove use and hand sanitizing.
The study, published in the January issue of Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology, found that these bacteria were resistant to measures taken to prevent the spread of infection.
Researchers compared contamination rates among healthcare workers caring for patients infected with C. difficile spores and those caring for non-colonized patients.
All patients with C. difficile were being treated with the following infection control measures: patients were in single-bed rooms with dedicated equipment; workers wore gloves, disposable gowns and full length sleeves; daily room cleaning with a disinfectant; and hand hygiene was maintained using alcohol-based hand rub before wearing gloves and hand washing with medicated soap and water after removal of gloves.
Researchers found that high-risk contact contaminated workers' hands, as well when workers did not use gloves. Contamination was 42 percent among nursing assistants, who perform more high-risk care such as bathing, and 19 percent among other healthcare workers, suggesting that contamination was linked to exposure times.
"Because C. difficile spores are so resistant and persistent to disinfection, glove use is not an absolute barrier against the contamination of healthcare workers' hands. Effective hand hygiene should be performed, even in non-outbreak settings," said Caroline Landelle, lead author of the study, in a statement.
The Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America recommends that healthcare workers use soap and water after caring for infected patients, which has been shown to be more effective at removing C. difficile spores than alcohol-based sanitizers.
[Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology]