Infection Risk from Dirty Medical Equipment Harboring ‘Superbugs’

One out of every 25 patients picks up a hospital acquired infection, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC), and these infections can lengthen hospital stays and increase costs. A hospital acquired infections (HAI) can also be deadly, with HAIs responsible for about 75,000 deaths each year.

Time spent in any health care setting, including physician offices, nursing homes, and rehabilitation facilities, can increase a patient’s risk for developing an HAI.

The average person makes three trips to physician offices, according to the CDC, and the total number of visits to doctor offices nears one billion per year. Vulnerable patients, like those receiving chemotherapy, increasingly rely on ambulatory care facilities to maintain or improve health. Ambulatory care settings often lack the infrastructure and resources to support sweeping infection protection. There is a paucity of data describing the risks of HAIs in outpatient settings, but the CDC reports numerous reports of gram-negative and gram-positive bacteria, mycobacteria, viruses, and parasites outbreaks.

Superbugs on Dirty Medical Equipment

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria are increasingly the cause of HAIs affecting inpatient and outpatient facilities. The CDC has identified six bacteria as urgent or serious antibiotic-resistant threats:

  • CRE (carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae)
  • ESBL-producing Enterobacteriaceae (extended-spectrum ß-lactamases)
  • MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus )
  • Multi-drug resistant Acinetobacter
  • Multi-drug resistant Pseudomonas aeruginosa
  • VRE (vancomycin-resistant enterococci)

These bugs often travel from one patient to another by hitching a ride on the hands of care providers, on medical equipment used in invasive procedures, and on doorknobs and other surfaces within the facility. Hospitals and doctor offices reduce the risk of HAIs by implementing stringent hand washing and housekeeping practices, using disposable equipment, and by sending equipment out to materiel management for disinfection and sterilization. While these tactics help control superbugs on catheters and thermometers, recent studies show they may not protect patients from pathogens hiding in plain view – on the surface of stethoscopes and other objects and structures.

A study by Mayo Clinic showed that there might be more pathogens on some parts of a stethoscope than on a doctor’s hand. This is because a doctor will use a stethoscope repeatedly throughout the day, on one patient and then the next, without cleaning. The Mayo Clinic study found that the stethoscope diaphragm was more contaminated than all parts of a physician’s hands except for the fingernails, and that the tube of a stethoscope had more pathogens than the back of the clinician’s hand.

Surfaces like stethoscopes are difficult to keep clean because a doctor cannot simply wash them with soap and water. Fortunately, new products help doctors reduce the risk of HAIs among their patients.

Surface Shield is a water-based antimicrobial technology that permanently bonds to any surfaces or textiles. Its long molecular chains and lipid fats act like tiny swords laid out on a microscopic ‘bed of nails,’ which pierce the cell membrane of microbes on contact.  Surface Shield protects surfaces for 90 days and is harmless to humans and animals, yet tough on superbugs hiding out on dirty medical equipment.

Surface Shield CTA Childrens Healing Center

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