Jul 21, 2019 | Updated: 08:54 AM EDT

C. difficile Persists on Surgical Gowns, Stainless Steels and Resists Hospital Disinfectant

Jul 13, 2019 06:39 AM EDT

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C. difficile Persists on Surgical Gowns, Stainless Steels and Resists Hospital Disinfectant
(Photo : Image by Raman Oza from Pixabay)

Even after they are treated with the recommended disinfectant, surgical gowns and stainless steel remained contaminated with the pathogen Clostridium difficile. The study was published in Applied and Environmental Microbiology, a journal of the American Society for Microbiology.

Tina Joshi, BSci, PhD., Lecturer in Molecular Microbiology, University of Plymouth, UK, the principal investigator, said that the spores of the bacteria were able to grow after decontamination. This case shows that spores are becoming resistant, and there is a need to reconsider how to decontaminate and employ hygiene measures in hospitals.

Killing 29,000, C. difficile infects approximately half a million Americans yearly. New strains are responsible for hard-to-treat cases of severe illness. Symptoms can range from diarrhea to fever, rapid heartbeat, inflammation of the intestines, and kidney failure. This pathogen commonly affects older adults in hospitals and long-term care facilities.

Dr. Joshi said that the motivation for the research was a case in an American hospital in which gowns were suspected of contributing to the transmission of C. difficile. They found that the gowns were contaminated with the deadly 027 strain of C. difficile.

The team examined the ability of C. difficile to adhere to, and subsequently transfer from hospital surgical gowns, by applying spores in sterilized water, at a concentration of 1 million per ml, directly to the surgical gowns in liquid for 10 seconds, 30 seconds, 1 minute, 5 minutes, and 10 minutes before being removed and discarded. The design that methodology to mimic the transfer of infectious bodily fluids in the clinical setting to access the potential for transmission to patients. Dr. Joshi noted that the numbers of spores they recovered from the gowns did not increase with the contact time, suggesting that the spore transfer between surfaces occurred within the first 10 seconds of contact.

They treated the gowns with a disinfectant containing 1,000 ppm chlorine for 10 minutes. The disinfectant failed to clear the gowns of C. difficile. Dr. Joshi said further that that showed that the gowns could pick up and retain the spores. The spores on stainless steel and vinyl flooring also remained viable after treatment with the disinfectant.

Explaining further, Dr. Joshi noted that because of this situation, it might be prudent to reconsider how much they use currently, and to ensure infection control is standardized. This work can be applied to hospitals anywhere in the world and should help inform future guidelines on infection control and biocides. 

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