Nav: Home

Hospital rooms and patients equally likely to transmit pathogens

October 27, 2016

DURHAM, N.C. -- Hospital rooms, not just the patients in them, can spread germs through contact with health care personnel, a Duke Health study reports.

"This study is a good wake-up call that health care personnel need to concentrate on the idea that the health care environment can be contaminated," said Deverick Anderson, M.D., the study's lead author and associate professor of medicine at Duke University School of Medicine. "Any type of patient care, or even just entry into a room where care is provided, truly should be considered a chance for interacting with organisms that can cause disease."

Anderson presented the study's findings on Oct. 27 at IDWeek, the annual meeting of the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA), the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America (SHEA), the HIV Medicine Association (HIVMA), and the Pediatric Infectious Diseases Society (PIDS).

The Duke-led research team set out to understand how pathogens travel between the "transmission triangle" in a health care setting: patients, the environment where care is administered, and the health care provider.

During the study, the researchers took cultures from the sleeves, pockets, and midriffs of the surgical scrubs of 40 intensive care unit nurses at Duke University Hospital. Each set of scrubs was new and the samples were collected at the start (before any patient interaction) and end of each shift. Cultures were also collected from the bodies of all patients the nurse cared for during each shift and the patients' room contents (bed, bedrail, and supply cart).

In total, 167 patients received care over 120, 12-hour shifts. The study collected 2,185 cultures from the nurses' clothing, 455 from patients, and 2,919 from patients' rooms.

Molecular analysis identified organisms on the nurses' clothing that were not present at the beginning of a shift, but were present at the end. The researchers then looked for those same organisms in the samples collected from patients and their rooms.

Specifically, they searched for five pathogens known to cause difficult-to-treat infections, including MRSA, a staphylococcus strain that is resistant to antibiotics. If such pathogens are present on nurses' scrubs, they could be transferred between patients or lead to infection of the nurses themselves.

During the shifts considered, the researchers confirmed 12 instances when at least one of the five pathogens was transmitted from the patient or the room to the scrubs. Six incidents each involved transmission from patient to nurse and room to nurse. An additional ten transmissions were from the patient to the room.

The researchers did not document any nurse-to-patient or nurse-to-room transmission.

The analysis found that pockets and sleeves of the scrubs were most likely to be contaminated, as were the bed rails in the rooms.

"I think sometimes there's the misconception that if, for instance, a nurse is just talking to patients and not actually touching them, that it might be okay to skip protocols that help reduce pathogen transmission, like washing hands or wearing gloves," Anderson said. "The study's results demonstrate the need for caution whenever health care providers enter a patient room, regardless of the task they're completing."

Anderson said the results were also significant because previous studies on pathogen transmission focused mainly on the patient-to-nurse interaction, while this study demonstrated that the room itself should be approached with equal consideration and caution.

"Oftentimes, especially when dealing with very sick patients, health care personnel may feel a conflict between providing care and following protocol that helps prevent pathogen transmission," Anderson added. "Our study shows following prevention strategies has to be a top priority, and that health care providers should be looking for ways to improve the likelihood that they are."
-end-
In addition to Anderson, study authors include Bobby Warren, Rachel Addison, Batu Sharma Kuinkel, Yuliya Lokhnygina, Laura Rojas Coy, Susan D. Rudin, Robert A. Bonomo, David J. Weber, William A. Rutala, Vance G. Fowler, Jr. and the CDC Prevention Epicenters Program.

The authors report no conflicts of interest. The study was funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (U54CK000164).

Duke University Medical Center

Related Pathogens Articles:

Inexpensive, portable detector identifies pathogens in minutes
Most viral test kits rely on labor- and time-intensive laboratory preparation and analysis techniques; for example, tests for the novel coronavirus can take days to detect the virus from nasal swabs.
Outsmarting pathogens
A new influenza strain appears each flu season, rendering past vaccines ineffective.
Autonomous microtrap for pathogens
Antibiotics are more efficient when they can act on their target directly at the site of infestation, without dilution.
Acidic environment could boost power of harmful pathogens
New findings published in PLOS Pathogens suggest lower pH in the digestive tract may make some bacterial pathogens even more dangerous.
On the trail of pathogens in meat, eggs and raw milk
To make food even safer for humans, experts from scientific institutions, food regulatory authorities and the business community will discuss current developments and strategies at the 'Zoonoses and Food Safety' Symposium at the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) on 4 and 5 November 2019, in Berlin-Marienfelde.
Protozoans and pathogens make for an infectious mix
The new observation that strains of V. cholerae can be expelled into the environment after being ingested by protozoa, and that these bacteria are then primed for colonisation and infection in humans, could help explain why cholera is so persistent in aquatic environments.
Your energy-efficient washing machine could be harboring pathogens
For the first time ever, investigators have identified a washing machine as a reservoir of multidrug-resistant pathogens.
Picky pathogens help non-native tree species invade
Trees have many natural enemies, including pathogens that have evolved to attack certain tree species.
How plague pathogens trick the immune system
Yersinia have spread fear and terror, especially in the past, but today they have still not been completely eradicated.
Metabolomic profiling of antibody response to periodontal pathogens
At the 97th General Session & Exhibition of the International Association for Dental Research (IADR), held in conjunction with the 48th Annual Meeting of the American Association for Dental Research (AADR) and the 43rd Annual Meeting of the Canadian Association for Dental Research (CADR), Jaakko Leskela, University of Helsinki, Finland, gave an oral presentation on 'Metabolomic Profiling of Antibody Response to Periodontal Pathogens.'
More Pathogens News and Pathogens Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Listen Again: Meditations on Loneliness
Original broadcast date: April 24, 2020. We're a social species now living in isolation. But loneliness was a problem well before this era of social distancing. This hour, TED speakers explore how we can live and make peace with loneliness. Guests on the show include author and illustrator Jonny Sun, psychologist Susan Pinker, architect Grace Kim, and writer Suleika Jaouad.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#565 The Great Wide Indoors
We're all spending a bit more time indoors this summer than we probably figured. But did you ever stop to think about why the places we live and work as designed the way they are? And how they could be designed better? We're talking with Emily Anthes about her new book "The Great Indoors: The Surprising Science of how Buildings Shape our Behavior, Health and Happiness".
Now Playing: Radiolab

The Third. A TED Talk.
Jad gives a TED talk about his life as a journalist and how Radiolab has evolved over the years. Here's how TED described it:How do you end a story? Host of Radiolab Jad Abumrad tells how his search for an answer led him home to the mountains of Tennessee, where he met an unexpected teacher: Dolly Parton.Jad Nicholas Abumrad is a Lebanese-American radio host, composer and producer. He is the founder of the syndicated public radio program Radiolab, which is broadcast on over 600 radio stations nationwide and is downloaded more than 120 million times a year as a podcast. He also created More Perfect, a podcast that tells the stories behind the Supreme Court's most famous decisions. And most recently, Dolly Parton's America, a nine-episode podcast exploring the life and times of the iconic country music star. Abumrad has received three Peabody Awards and was named a MacArthur Fellow in 2011.