Hydrogen Peroxide Vapor Enhances Hospital Cleaning

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BALTIMORE—Experts of infection prevention and control at the Johns Hopkins Hospital have found that a combination of robot-like devices that disperse a bleaching agent into the air and then detoxify the disinfecting chemical are highly effective at killing and preventing the spread of multidrug-resistant bacteria.

A study report on the use of hydrogen peroxide vaporizers—first deployed in several Singapore hospitals during the 2002 outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, and later stocked by several U.S. government agencies in case of an anthrax attack—is to be published Jan. 1 in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.

In the study, the Johns Hopkins team placed the devices in single hospital rooms after routine cleaning to disperse a thin film of the bleaching hydrogen peroxide across all exposed hospital equipment surfaces, as well as on room floors and walls. Results showed that the enhanced cleaning reduced by 64 percent the number of patients who later became contaminated with any of the most common drug-resistant organisms. Moreover, researchers found that protection from infection was conferred on patients regardless of whether the previous room occupant was infected with drug-resistant bacteria or not.

"Hydrogen peroxide vapor, as spread around patients' rooms by these devices, represents a major technological advance in preventing the spread of dangerous bacteria inside hospitals and, especially, from one patient occupant to the next, even though sick patients were never in the same room at the same time," said infectious disease specialist and study senior investigator Trish Perl, MD, MSc.

Of special note, researchers say, was that enhanced cleaning with the vapor reduced by 80 percent a patient's chances of becoming colonized by a particularly aggressive and hard-to-treat bacterium, vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE).

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