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Rethinking Infection Control: The Persistent Challenge of Surface Disinfection in Hospitals

A recently published study in the American Journal of Infection Control reveals that high-touch surfaces in hospitals continue harboring pathogenic and potentially pathogenic bacteria despite adhering to recommended disinfection protocols. The research, conducted at the Central Texas Veterans Healthcare System, spotlights the ongoing struggle with healthcare-associated infections (HAIs), emphasizing the need for innovative approaches to boost the efficacy of surface disinfection. Traditional hospital disinfection best practices may not be enough to prevent the spread of pathogens, more so on surfaces frequently handled by various individuals.

Researchers based their findings on samples collected from 400 surfaces, including simulation manikins utilized for resuscitation practices, workstations on wheels, breakroom tables, bed railings, and computer keyboards at nursing stations. Each sampled surface exhibited bacterial presence, with manikins and bed rails showing the most diverse bacterial types. The examined samples revealed 60 different strands of bacteria, introducing 18 recognized human pathogens, along with some bacteria strains that could potentially infect humans under specific conditions. The common types of pathogenic bacteria identified were Enterococcus, Staphylococcus aureus, Streptococcus, Escherichia coli, and Klebsiella aerogenes among others.

Some of these potentially pathogenic bacteria have been linked to central-line associated bloodstream infections, meningitis, and endocarditis. Interestingly, close to half of the identified bacteria were also found in clinical samples collected from patients during the same year. The study emphasizes the urgency for a renewed infection prevention approach, geared towards improving the effectiveness of disinfection protocols while enhancing education strategies to more effectively prevent the spread of harmful organisms. By addressing gaps in current protocols, healthcare systems can better safeguard patients and healthcare professsionals against HAIs. It’s a reminder to healthcare workers that the fight against HAIs goes beyond disinfection practices, reiterating the importance of infection prevention and control in healthcare facilities.


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