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Scientific Director of the Surgical Infection Research Group, Vice-Chancellor Innovation Fellow at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Macquarie University, Sydney Australia.
The following article is inspired by Professor Karen Vickery’s seminar at The Interclean Group’s Future Disinfection Now Conference, titled Biofilms: Current Threats and Why We’re Not Winning The Battle.
Biofilms: Current Threats and Why We’re Not Winning The Battle – Why are bacteria surviving your terminal cleans?
If you are a healthcare professional, you have no doubt asked yourselves more than once, ‘How are bacteria surviving your terminal and infectious cleans despite the best quality products and the most committed team?’. According to scientific studies conducted by Karen Vickery at Macquarie University Hospital, the answer is biofilms. Once believed to live only on wet surfaces, we now know that biofilms are growing on dry surfaces within our healthcare facilities and our current cleaning policies and procedures are not sufficient enough to kill them.
A biofilm is a complex community of bacterial cells that attach to a surface and to each other by extracellular polymeric substances (EPS). This slime acts as a force field around the bacteria that prevents the disinfectant from reaching the bacteria. The EPS that acts as this protective barrier is composed of 85% water which means that these bacterias can thrive and grow for over a year without any form of external nutrition making them incredibly hard to kill.
So the question stands, what does this mean for infection control if we have these hyper-resistant bacterias developing within our hospitals? A study conducted on an ICU of a Sydney hospital room tested samples of a door and curtain amongst other things once the room had been terminally cleaned twice. Astoundingly, over half of the samples collected were culture positive and half of those culture positive samples had sufficient bacteria to grow multi-drug-resistant organisms (MRO’s). In this twice terminally cleaned intensive care room, 93% of all sampled material was found to have biofilms growing.
Clearly, biofilms are not something that healthcare managers can overlook. Unfortunately, they are significantly harder to kill than free swimming bacteria and our standard current cleaning methods of wiping with cloths and even disinfectants will not suffice. Professor Vickery’s research found that cleaning a surface infected with biofilms with 20,000 ppm chlorine with 10 minutes surface time would significantly reduce the number of biofilms and bacteria, however, the tested bacteria reconnected and regrew within days of being cleaned. What this shows, is that in order to remove biofilms we need to disperse the bacteria through thorough cleaning before disinfecting the surfaces, to ensure that these bacteria do not quickly resume their former structures.
We do not currently have the perfect solution to completely remove these biofilms, so what we must do is put in every effort to prevent these biofilms from forming in the first place. Investing in the best possible products, training and systems management that we possibly can in order to best equip our staff and cleaners to succeed and create the safest possible environments for our patients.
For more information about Professor Karen Vickery’s Research or to download our Biofilms Fact Sheet to show to your management click here.
To watch the full session from Prof. Karen Vickery, click below to request a viewing access code.