People may be becoming ill in hospital – from the sinks

10th of March 2017
People may be becoming ill in hospital – from the sinks

Hospital sinks may be hotbeds of drug-resistant bacteria, according to a new report.

Research carried out in the US has found that splashes on the sides of sinks may harbour potentially deadly bacteria.

The study group set up a "sink lab" - a room containing five identical sinks based on the type most commonly found in intensive care units - at the University of Virginia's hospital in Charlottesville.

"We wanted to better understand how transmission occurs so that the numbers of these infections could be reduced," said principal investigator of the research team Amy Mathers. "Our study demonstrates that bacterial spread from drainpipes to patients occurs via a staged mode of transmission."

The study revealed that E.coli bacteria initially colonised the elbows of drainpipes and then spread to the sink strainers at the rate of around an inch per day. The researchers calculated that the colonies would reach the strainers within a week in a typical hospital sink.

From here the bacteria had the potential to quickly become splashed around the sink and on to the surrounding surfaces where they could be picked up by patients, claim the researchers.

The team is now using the sink lab to conduct a follow-up study in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The goal is to determine precisely how the pathogens reach the patients, says Mathers.

"This type of foundational research is needed to understand how these bacteria are transmitted so that we can develop and test potential intervention strategies that can be used to prevent further spread," she said.



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