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Fresh air may be a defence against superbugs15th of March 2012
The risk of picking up a healthcare-acquired infection could be lowered by simply opening the hospital windows, according to reports.
'Friendly' bacteria found outside could help to fend off the potentially deadly microbes that cause hospital-acquired infections, according to Jack Gilbert of Argonne National Laboratory in Chicago.
Gilbert, who is head of the Earth Microbiome Project - a global database of microbial species -cites a study that shows how open windows influence the composition of microbial communities found on handles and surfaces.
"Open windows let bacteria in from outside and you will either dilute the pathogens, or they will be unable to establish themselves because there is too much competition for the nutrients and energy that the bacteria need to survive," Gilbert told the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
"There's a good bacterial community living in hospitals and if you try to wipe it out with sterilisation agents and excessive antibiotic use, you actually lay waste to this greenfield of protective layer. The bad bacteria can then just jump in and start causing hospital-borne infections."
Hospitals need to be clean but too much sterilisation may be counter-productive, says Gilbert. This may explain why hospital infections can recur even under the most sterile circumstances, he said.
The latest findings bear out the theories of Florence Nightingale 150 years ago who insisted that open windows were the hallmark of a healthy hospital ward.