Safer Hospital Rooms

April 12, 2013

C. difficile contamination of hospital rooms is a leading cause of deadly infections, and human behavior may be at least as important as technological innovation in controlling it. A new study has found that imposing a three-step cleaning procedure — and supervising it carefully — can nearly eliminate the microbe.

Over a 21-month period at a Cleveland hospital, researchers sequentially imposed three cleaning techniques: fluorescent markers whose disappearance after cleaning provided feedback on thoroughness, an ultraviolet radiation device to enhance regular cleaning, and a daily disinfection team requiring assessment and clearance of disinfected rooms by supervisory staff. The study appears in the May issue of Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology.

Before the staff started using the procedures, 67 percent of rooms produced positive cultures for C. difficile bacteria. Use of fluorescent markers reduced it to 57 percent; the automated ultraviolet radiation cut it to 35 percent; and after imposing the supervised assessment and clearance, only 7 percent of rooms had positive cultures.

“The thing that really helped us to improve our cleaning process was continually being able to culture the rooms to show that our techniques were effective,” said the senior author, Dr. Curtis J. Donskey, chairman of the infection control committee at the hospital, the Cleveland Veterans Affairs Medical Center. “This is not widely available right now, and many hospitals are in the dark about how effective their cleaning processes really are.”

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