A recent study has shown some disturbing, really disturbing, evidence that current decontamination measures do very little to eliminate superbugs from surgical gowns. The study, conducted in the UK, is so eye-opening because it likely means these superbugs are evolving and growing more resistant to decontamination measures.
Researchers contaminated surgical gowns with 3 strains of Clostridium difficile, also known by its shorthand C. difficile or C.diff. Then they applied the standard treatment recommended by the Department of Health(UK) – 10 minutes in a solution containing 1000 parts per million of chlorine. When they studied the gowns after the treatment, the bacteria remained. In fact, the treatment was so ineffective the bacteria was able to still grow after the treatment.
The study was inspired by an American case where hospital gowns were suspected in the transmission of a life-threatening strain of C.difficile. Recently, ICT chronicled the rise of C.diff. What used to be a mainly hospital acquired infection has been appearing more and more outside healthcare settings. This study just adds to the mounting evidence that superbugs and C.diff in particular are a growing public health threat.
The study also tested other surfaces that could be exposed: stainless steel and vinyl flooring both commonly found in surgical rooms. Like the gowns, both surfaces still had viable spores after being decontaminated by current standards.
What Can be Done?
Industry standards may need to be raised to consider even more powerful treatments or much longer treatment times. Facilities also need to be vigilant about proper hygiene and cleaning. Healthcare facilities also need to ensure proper usage of the gowns: that they are donned and then removed in the surgical rooms and not worn anywhere else to prevent transmission.
Infection Control Technologies, (ICT) a division of Insurance Restoration Specialists, Inc. (IRS) is one of the nation’s leading Building Hygiene contractors. ICT provides Facility Hygiene Services and Emergency Decontamination for some of the nation’s most respected real estate and Risk Management Professionals, Health Care, Municipalities, Institutions, Food Safety, Transportation, and government organizations.