Breaking the chain of infection

Published: 1-May-2013

The clothing worn by healthcare staff plays an important role in breaking infection chains. The Hohenstein Institute has investigated the extent of the problem and ways of resolving it

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A study that examined the germ contamination of work clothing from 135 doctors and nursing staff in a hospital in Jerusalem found potentially infectious organisms in about 60% of the samples, including antibiotic-resistant bugs such as MRSA.1

In view of the role played by textiles as potential sources of infection in hospitals, the Hohenstein Institute in Bönnigheim, Germany, has developed a new type of germ transmission model which, in a first stage, tracks the transmission routes of micro-organisms in a public lavatory. Scientists observed to what extent there was a spread of bacteria, fungi or viruses from one germ source by the hands onto different objects in the room (e.g. lavatory brush, door handle, tap). It was then a question of determining to what extent these objects went on to become a source of infection.

The new germ transmission model was used to study, for example, how many micro-organisms were spread from the lavatory brush to the door handle by the hand of a person and what amount spread further by the hand of the next person opening the door.

The practice-orientated study conducted by the researchers is the first to correlate paths of germ transmission to currently known infectious doses of bacteria, fungi and viruses. Although, as expected, the number of viable germs decreased with each transmission step from hands to objects, some pathogens were still passed in infectious doses to other test persons through contact with contaminated surfaces.

Hohenstein Institute scientists are currently developing the germ transmission model further so that it can also be used for textiles in the healthcare system.

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