Antibacterial wipes can still spread bacteria

June 03, 2008

A new study by a team of researchers at the Welsh School of Pharmacy, Cardiff University, Wales, UK, has found that antimicrobial-containing wipes currently used to decontaminate surfaces in hospitals can spread pathogens after first use. The research highlights concerns as to the suitability of the wipes currently being deployed and the importance of a routine surveillance program in reducing risks of infection to patients.

The research, conducted by Dr. Gareth Williams at the Welsh School of Pharmacy, Cardiff University, Wales, UK, and supported by a grant from the Wales Office of research and Development for Health and Social Care (WORD), is being presented June 3, 2008 at the 108th General Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology (ASM) in Boston.

Antimicrobial-containing wipes are increasingly being used to decontaminate surfaces in hospitals. Many studies have reported on the ability of Staphylococcus aureus to contaminate and persist in the hospital environment. Germicides are commonly used on hard surfaces in hospitals to kill bacteria. The research posed the question - 'Are we confident that these organisms are susceptible to the germicides used in our hospitals"'

The study identified the need for a test which could thoroughly examine the ability of commonly used wipes to disinfect surfaces. As such, a robust 3-step protocol to assess the ability of wipes to remove, kill and prevent the transfer of bacteria between surfaces was subsequently developed. Using the 3-step method the study examined the ability of several commercially available wipes to disinfect surfaces contaminated with Staphylococcus aureus, including Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).

The results showed that some wipes can remove higher numbers of bacteria from surfaces than others. However, the wipes tested were unable to kill the bacteria that they removed. As a result, they transferred high numbers of bacteria to other surfaces. Our work suggests that if these wipes encounter highly contaminated surfaces in practice, the survival of bacteria on the wipe material could lead to the cross-contamination of other surfaces if used more than once.
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American Society for Microbiology

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