‘Drug-resistant bacteria persists in hospitals even after deep cleaning’

12th of November 2020
‘Drug-resistant bacteria persists in hospitals even after deep cleaning’

Deep cleaning fails to prevent the spread of certain antibiotic-resistant bacteria in hospitals according to University of Cambridge researchers.

Enterococcus faecium is commonly found in the intestines of humans where it usually causes no problems. However, it can lead to potentially life-threatening infections in immuno-compromised patients. And antibiotic-resistant strains of enterococcus faecium have increasingly been found in hospital settings over the past 30 years

Scientists used genome sequencing at Cambridge's Addenbrooke's Hospital to reveal the extent to which drug-resistant gastrointestinal bacteria can spread.

Swabs were taken from the hospital environment where 48 per cent of surfaces tested positive for vancomycin-resistant E. faecium. The affected areas included 36 per cent of medical devices, 76 per cent of non-touch areas such as air vents, 41 per cent of bed spaces and 68 per cent of communal bathrooms.

The hospital then deep-cleaned the ward over a three-day period while the patients were moved elsewhere. However, when the team swabbed the ward again before the patients returned they found that nine per cent of samples still tested positive for the bacteria. And within three days of the patients returning around half the sampled sites tested positive again.

"We found high levels of hospital-adapted E. faecium despite the use of cleaning products and procedures that have proven effective against the bug," said Dr Theodore Gouliouris from the University of Cambridge Department of Medicine. "We were surprised to find how short-lasting the effect of deep cleaning was. It highlights how challenging it can be to tackle outbreaks in hospitals."



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