Tag Archives: hospital

Hospital floors are full of bacteria, posing a risk to patients’ health

While they might be cleaned regularly, floors in hospital rooms can (and frequently do) quickly get contaminated with antibiotic-resistant bacteria. This process happens mere hours after patient admission, according to a new study. This creates a route through which patients can be exposed to potentially dangerous organisms.

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Floors aren’t often given the same care as surfaces that patients or health care workers regularly touch, such as bed rails and various buttons. In many cases, floors aren’t cleaned when new patients are admitted to hospital rooms unless they’re visibly dirty or soiled. This can create health problems across the hospital, previous studies have found.

“If bacteria stayed on floors this wouldn’t matter, but we’re seeing clear evidence that these organisms are transferred to patients, despite our current control efforts,” said Curtis Donskey, co-author of the study. “Hand hygiene is critical, but we need to develop practical approaches to reduce underappreciated sources of pathogens.”

A team of researchers from the Northeast Ohio VA Healthcare System tracked contamination levels in 17 hospital rooms with newly-admitted patients to study how and how fast these could transfer to the patients. Before testing, the rooms were cleaned and sanitized, with all patients screened for healthcare-associated bacteria (and found negative).

For the study, the researchers looked at the interactions between patients and healthcare workers and portable equipment. They collected samples one to three times per day from patients, their socks, beds, and other often-touched surfaces, as well as key sections of the floor that could have been contaminated.

Almost half the rooms tested positive for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) in the first 24 hours. At the same time, vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE) pathogens were identified in 58% of patient rooms within four days of admission. The contamination spread from the floors to other surfaces, the findings showed.

“While we’re showing that these scary-sounding bugs can make their way into a patient’s room and near them, not everyone who encounters a pathogen will get an infection,” said Sarah Redmond, lead author of the study. “With that in mind, are there simple ways to address these areas of exposure without placing too much emphasis on the risk?”

The researchers had reported similar findings in a previous study in August, explaining that SARS-CoV-2 nucleic acid (genetic material) was frequently identified on floors and on the shoes of personnel on a COVID-19 ward. Still, they said further research is needed to clarify the role of floor contamination in the transmission of both bacterial and viral pathogens and to identify ways to address contamination.

The study does however have a set of limitations. This included a small sample size and variables in characteristics among patients and healthcare personnel that may affect how applicable the study findings are to other hospitals, among others

The study was published in the journal Infection Control & Hospital Epidemiology.

Copper-lined hospital beds harbor up to 95% less bacteria, can help save patient lives

Lining hospital beds with copper could be a cheap and easy way to reduce healthcare-associated infections (HAIs), especially among the most vulnerable patients.

Image via Pixabay.

A new study led by Michael G. Schmidt, PhD, Professor of Microbiology and Immunology at the Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, reports that copper hospital beds in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) carry an average of 95% fewer bacteria than conventional beds. Better yet, this reduced bacterial population remained constant throughout the patients’ stay in hospital.

Copper solutions

“Hospital-acquired infections sicken approximately 2 million Americans annually, and kill nearly 100,000, numbers roughly equivalent to the number of deaths if a wide-bodied jet crashed every day,” said coauthor Michael G. Schmidt, PhD, Professor of Microbiology and Immunology, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston. They are the eighth leading cause of death in the US.

Hospital beds are among the most contaminated surfaces in medical settings, the team explains. Although healthcare workers do clean and sanitize them, these efforts fall short — the beds are cleaned either not often enough, or not well enough to remove all pathogens, the team explains. And, while the antimicrobial properties of copper have been known for a long time now, patient beds that incorporate copper-lined surfaces aren’t commercially available.

In an effort to quantify the effectiveness of such beds — and potentially bring them to hospital settings around the world — the team performed an on-site experiment using five ICU beds, which see some of the heaviest patient use. The team compared the relative contamination levels of beds lined with copper rails, footboards, and bed controls to traditional hospital beds (which have plastic surfaces). All in all, they report that 90% of bacterial samples taken from plastic surfaces had bacteria concentrations that exceeded safe levels. Meanwhile, copper-lined surfaces “harbored significantly fewer bacteria throughout the patient stay than control beds,” they explain, “at levels below those considered to increase the likelihood of HAIs”. Furthermore, if daily and terminal cleaning regimes are respected, these beds don’t tarnish and don’t require additional cleaning or maintenance.

Copper-lined surfaces for hospital beds can help keep them hygienic for longer (provided they are cleaned regularly) and reduce the risk of HAIs spreading between patients. The use of copper-lined equipment can help improve patient outcomes, save lives, and reduce healthcare expenditures, the team concludes.

“Based on the positive results of previous trials, we worked to get a fully encapsulated copper bed produced,” said Dr. Schmidt. “We needed to convince manufacturers that the risk to undertake this effort was worthwhile.”

The paper “Self-Disinfecting Copper Beds Sustain Terminal Cleaning and Disinfection (TC&D) Effects Throughout Patient Care” has been published in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology.


Copper-coated uniforms for medical staff could help shred bacteria in hospitals

Healthcare professionals might soon be bringing on the bling in the workplace, as UK and Chinese researchers designed copper-covered uniforms to help fight bacteria.


Image via PxHere.

Materials scientists from the University of Manchester, working with counterparts from several universities in China, have created a ‘durable and washable, concrete-like’ material made from copper nanoparticles. They’ve also developed a method of bringing this composite to textiles such as cotton or polyester, a world first.

Coppering out

Bacterial infections are a major health issue in hospitals across the world. These tiny prokaryotes spread throughout healthcare facilities on surfaces and clothing, leading to losses both of life and of funds. The issue becomes worse still after you factor in the rise of drug resistance in most strains, which is rendering our once-almighty antibiotics more and more powerless. So we need to look for alternative ways of dealing with them, ones that do not rely on antibiotics.

One increasingly promising set of tools in our fight against disease are precious metals, such as gold and silver, which have excellent antibacterial and antimicrobial properties. However, deploying these on the surfaces and clothing mentioned earlier runs into some pretty obvious problems: first, gold and silver are really expensive — after all, they literally used to be money. Secondly, they don’t lend that well to making practical clothes, especially in a hospital setting.

Enter copper. Less expensive than gold or silver, copper is nevertheless still very good at killing pathogens, which solves problem one. However, up to now, we still didn’t have an adequate answer to issue number two — which is what the team addresses in this paper.

Using a process dubbed ‘Polymer Surface Grafting’, the researchers were successful in tying copper nanoparticles to cotton or polyester using a polymer brush. Cotton and polyester were chosen as a test bed as they’re the most widely used natural fiber and a typical man-made synthetic fabric, respectively.

The materials were brushed over with copper nanoparticles measuring between 1 and 100 nm, which is really small — one nm equals one-millionth of a mm. The metal particles formed a strong, stable chemical bond with the cloth, meaning the metal won’t flake off or be washed away.

“Now that our composite materials present excellent antibacterial properties and durability, it has huge potential for modern medical and healthcare applications,” says lead author Dr Xuqing Liu, from UoM’s School of Materials.

During lab tests, the copper-coated materials easily killed Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) and E. coli, two of the most common and infectious bacteria in hospitals, even after being washed 30 times.

The team says their results are very promising, and Dr. Liu adds that “some companies are already showing interest” in developing it further.

“We hope we can commercialise the advanced technology within a couple of years,” he adds. “We have now started to work on reducing cost and making the process even simpler.”

The paper “Durable and Washable Antibacterial Copper Nanoparticles Bridged by Surface Grafting Polymer Brushes on Cotton and Polymeric Materials” has been published in the Journal of Nanomaterials.


Numbered jerseys for medical personnel leads to better teamwork and efficiency, researchers find

Numbered jerseys could be just the thing to improve the teamwork and overall efficiency of hospital personnel, a new paper reports.


Image via Pexels.

Good quality hospitals are a lifesaver — literally. However, hospitals are only as good as the people staffing them, and a research team from the Montefiore Medical Center in New York has found a surprising way to boost their efficiency — numbered jerseys. The team hypothesized these would foster a more team-driven atmosphere and help reduce the time to perform critical clinical actions.

Team Medicine

To test their idea, the team recruited ten critical care medicine fellows and randomized them into two groups. One group received personalized numbered jersey for each team member, and the control group would wear their regular outfits. Then, the two groups were asked to participate in six high-fidelity cardiac arrest simulations, with participants alternating between team member and team leader on each case.

Trained faculty members observed the simulations and rated the groups’ overall results using the 16-item Mayo High Performance Teamwork scale. The observers were also asked to keep track of the number of directed commands issued by the team leaders (commands issued to individual names or numbers) versus air commands (e.g. somebody start chest compressions) as well as the time to performance of specific clinical actions (such as initiation of chest compressions, defibrillation, administration of first correct medication, and so on).

Results show that the jersey-wearing team received a significantly higher Mayo Teamwork score than the control group (23.5 vs 17.5). The research group also reports a statistically significant difference in the percentage of directed commands between the groups (35.63% vs 19.58%). There was no significant improvement in the time to administration of first correct medication (91.7s vs 64.9s), initiation of chest compressions (44.0s vs 20.0s), delivery of defibrillation (99.0s vs 146.3s) or beginning of bag-valve-mask ventilation (112.3s vs 41.5s).

“This study demonstrated that the use of numbered jerseys for individual code team members is an effective way to significantly increase the overall teamwork performance during a CA event,” says Dr. Yekaterina Kim, lead author of the paper.

“In addition, the use of such jerseys significantly increased the number of direct commands by team leaders during such scenarios, thereby reducing the percent of ineffective commands.”

The team, however, notes that the team’s performance on clinical actions wasn’t significantly improved and was actually slower for the beginning of bag-valve mask ventilation and recommends further research on the subject.

The paper “The Effect of Individualized Numbered Jerseys on Teamwork, Directed Commands, and Clinical Performance During Simulated Cardiac Arrest Scenarios” has been published in the CHEST Journal.

“Copper kills everything”: A Copper Bedrail Could Cut Back On Infections For Hospital Patients

As modern medicine can be quite paradoxical sometimes, checking into a hospital can actually boost your chances of an infection; and if you’re thinking that this only happens in poorer, underdeveloped countries – you’re wrong. No matter where you check in at a hospital, you are vulnerable to infections which have nothing to do with your original problem. Now, a team from Chile studying this issue believe they have found a solution for this problem: copper.

A copper bedrail can kill germs on contact.
Courtesy of CopperBioHealth

The World Health Organization estimates that “each year, hundreds of millions of patients around the world are affected” by healthcare-acquired infections. These are called healthcare-acquired infections, healthcare-associated infections or hospital-acquired infections. Most of them can be very dangerous, and there doesn’t seem to be a correlation between how well the hospital is equipped and how likely you are to get an infection. However, in developing countries, the rate of hospital infection seems to be higher.

The source of these infections can come as quite a surprise – Constanza Correa, a Chilean researcher and her team found that bed safety railings are major source of infections. They replaced the railings with copper ones, and the effect was immediate and visible.

“Bacteria, yeasts and viruses are rapidly killed on metallic copper surfaces, and the term “contact killing” has been coined for this process,” wrote the authors of an article on copper in Applied and Environmental Microbiology. That knowledge has been around a very long time. The journal article cites an Egyptian medical text, written around 2600-2000 B.C., that cites the use of copper to sterilize chest wounds and drinking water.

Indeed, this is called the “Oligodynamic effect” – many metals have a strong antimicrobial effect, being toxic not only for microbes, but also for algae, molds, spores, fungi, prokaryotic and eukaryotic microorganisms, even in relatively low concentrations. Most heavy metals exhibit this effect, but also silver, iron, and of course, copper. Silver and copper actually have the strongest antimicrobial effect.

Correa and her team hasn’t yet assessed the entire impact that bed railings can have, but a study of the effects of copper-alloy surfaces in U.S. hospitals’ intensive care units, published last year in Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology, showed promising results: Their presence reduced the number of healthcare-acquired infections from 8.1 percent in regular rooms to 3.4 percent in the copper rooms. That’s a reduction of almost 60 percent.

“Healthcare-acquired infections are a huge problem. People come to the hospital with a sickness, and they get another one in the hospital. Then they have to stay longer and spend more money on treatment. Sometimes it can cause death. Eighty percent of these infections come from touching hospital surfaces. In the hospital room, the most contaminated surface is the bed rail. It’s the most manipulated by medical staff and patients. It’s in direct contact with the patient. That’s the most critical surface in the room”, Correa said in an interview published on NPR.


“Copper kills everything”, she says, so why not use it more in hospitals? There is a huge number of ways in which you can use it. You can have copper IV poles, feeding tables, night tables, even mattress covers (a copper additive).

“Copper kills everything. Why wouldn’t you use it? It has so much sense for people.”