Superbugs persist on surgical gowns and surfaces even after decontamination

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The superbug Clostridium difficile persists on surgical gowns and surfaces, even after being treated with the recommended amount of disinfectant, suggests a study from the University of Plymouth, UK.

In the study published July 12, 2019 in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology, researchers examined single-use hospital surgical gowns (made of polypropylene), hospital-grade stainless steel and floor vinyl that had been infected with with 1 × 106 spores/ml of two types of C. difficile spore preparations: crude spores and purified spores of C. difficile. These infected gowns were then treated for 10 minutes with disinfectant containing 1,000 parts per million (ppm) of chlorine-releasing agent sodium dichloroisocyanurate.

All strains of C. difficile spores remained viable on the gowns as well as on stainless steel and vinyl flooring after microbicide exposure at the recommended disinfection concentration demonstrating ineffectual sporicidal action. As the number of spores did not increase during contact time (10 seconds, 30 seconds, 1 minute, 5 minutes, 10 minutes), the transfer of spores likely occurred within the first 10 seconds.

This new study only adds to the growing evidence that for all practical purposes, everything used in healthcare including environmental surfaces can be considered to be contaminated and a potential source of cross-contamination in hospitals and transmission of health-care associated infections.

Universal precautions need to be stringently followed. Single-use items should be disposed of properly and surfaces should be wiped clean. Hand hygiene and antimicrobial stewardship activities should be diligently observed. Any variation in cleaning practices can result in suboptimal spore killing.

Dr KK Aggarwal

Padma Shri Awardee

President Elect Confederation of Medical Associations in Asia and Oceania (CMAAO)

Group Editor-in-Chief IJCP Publications

President Heart Care Foundation of India

Past National President IMA