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Bad Bugs Float Freely in Hospitals

Posted Nov 11 2012 10:08pm
Posted on Nov. 8, 2012, 6 a.m. in Infectious Disease

Previously, a number of studies implicate that hospital superbugs, such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and Clostridium difficile, can be spread through contact. Patients, visitors or even hospital staff can inadvertently touch surfaces contaminated with bacteria and then pass the infection on to others. New research by the University of Leeds  (United Kingdom) shows that coughing, sneezing or simply shaking the bedclothes can send superbugs into flight, allowing them to contaminate recently-cleaned surfaces.  Cath Noakes  and colleagues used a biological aerosol chamber  to replicate conditions in one- and two-bedded hospital rooms.  The team released tiny aerosol droplets containing Staphyloccus aureus, a bacteria related to MRSA, from a heated mannequin simulating the heat emitted by a human body. They also placed open Petri dishes where other patients’ beds, bedside tables, chairs and washbasins might be and then checked where the bacteria landed and grew.  The results confirmed that contamination can spread to surfaces across a ward.   Writing that:  “[our data] demonstrate that small particle bioaerosols are deposited throughout a room with no clear correlation between relative surface concentration and distance from the source,” the study authors do suggest that: “a physical partition separating patients is shown to be effective at reducing cross-contamination of neighbouring patient zones.”

M.-F. King, C.J. Noakes, P.A. Sleigh, M.A. Camargo-Valero. “Bioaerosol deposition in single and two-bed hospital rooms: A numerical and experimental study.”  Building and Environment, 27 September 2012.

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