Patient privacy curtains often contaminated with superbugs, study finds

Hospital Privacy Curtains Could Be Breeding Ground for Germs

Hospital Privacy Curtains Could Be Breeding Ground for Germs

Mody notes that the study suggests that numerous MDROs seen on patients are also seen in their rooms early in their stay, suggesting that transmission to room surfaces is rapid.

VRE was found to be most prevalent in 210 of the cultures grown in the lab. VRE is a bacteria that causes bloodstream infections. Patient colonization with MRSA and VRE were each associated with contamination of the bedside curtain, investigators determined. A total of 1521 samples from 625 rooms were obtained from the edges of privacy curtains where they are touched most often, and the researchers were particularly interested in any links between bacteria found on patients, and MDRO contamination on their privacy curtain at the same visit.

The findings showed that 22% of the samples from the privacy curtains tested positive for multidrug-resistant organisms, with contamination rates ranging from 12% to 28.5%, depending on the facility. Because of overuse of antibiotics, these bacteria have evolved the ability to withstand attempts to treat infections with drugs that once killed them.

Researchers from Michigan Medicine's University Hospital in Ann Arbor conducted the study at six skilled nursing facilities in southeast Michigan.

"When these germs are not washed off, they pass easily from person to person and objects to person and make people sick", added Reyes.

What is more, when visits found VRE on the curtain, nearly six in ten (57.6%) patients were also contaminated with the bug.

The percentage of curtains infected with different bugs ranged from five percent for MRSA, to six percent for resistant gram-negative bacilli (R-GNB), and 14 percent for vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE) - all potentially deadly. Curtain contamination was often intermittent among 18 patients with 6 months of follow up.

Presenting their findings at the European Congress of Clinical Microbiology & Infectious Diseases (ECCMID) in Amsterdam, the researchers said there was no significant difference between private and shared rooms.

"MDRO curtain contamination is common in SNFs and often reflects patient colonisation".

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She added, "But our findings make an argument for addressing transmission of MDROs in a way that involves patients, too".

They hope the results will better inform curtain hygiene protocols.

In the study, the research team conducted a prospective cohort study across six SNFs in southeast MI, obtaining bacterial culture samples from several sites on each patient's body, as well as from high-touch surfaces in the patient's room. Furthermore, six percent of patients who didn't initially have superbugs tested positive for them on their hands later in their stay.

After analyzing the data, the research team saw that privacy curtain contamination in patient rooms was common, and that curtains were most often contaminated with the same MDRO as the patient in that room.

Prof Mody said: "Patient privacy curtains are high-touch surfaces that are cleaned infrequently and could contribute to pathogen transmission".

Superbugs are unsafe multi-drug resistant organisms also referred to as MDROs. "Further studies are needed to determine conclusively whether contaminated privacy curtains are a source of multidrug-resistant organism transmission to patients".

Almost 20,000 MRSA-related deaths occurred in the US in 2017, a lot of them from hospital- acquired infections, according to the US Centers for Disease Control.

This will include 90,000 in Britain unless something is done to halt their rise, the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) said.

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