PARIS, France (AFP) – According to findings that will be presented Saturday at a conference on infectious diseases, curtains of privacy difficult to clean in hospitals and retirement homes around the world could be contaminated by deadly bacteria resistant to drugs.
More than one-fifth of the 1,500 samples taken from six post-acute care nursing facilities in the United States were contaminated with one or more dangerous bacteria, including the hospital virus, MRSA, discovered researchers.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (USA), nearly 20,000 MRSA-related deaths occurred in the United States in 2017, mostly due to nosocomial infections
"These pathogens on privacy curtains often survive and have the potential to transfer to other surfaces and to other patients," said co-author Lona Mody, a physician and researcher. at the Medical Center of the University of Michigan.
"As curtains of privacy are used all over the world, it's a global problem."
A comparison of the bacteria found on the patients and the curtains showed that both were often contaminated with the same strains.
The results of this research suggest that the insects present in these cases have probably moved from patient to curtain, but the reverse is "certainly possible," Mody told AFP.
The results, currently being published by peers, are expected to be unveiled at the European Congress of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases, to be held in Amsterdam from 13 to 16 April.
Despite improvements in hygiene, hospitals overflowing with antibiotics can become incubators of drug-resistant bacteria that mutate to survive the drugs designed to eradicate them.
Inpatients with weakened immune systems and open wounds after surgery are particularly vulnerable to attack.
Usually made of plastic or cotton, the curtains that separate the beds or surround them in private rooms are often rarely cleaned.
"Hospital policies vary widely, but usually include changing privacy curtains every six months or when they are visibly soiled," Mody said.
Previous research has examined their ability to retain bacteria, but this is the first time that we are looking at a "post-acute" parameter, the authors said.
Patients in skilled nursing homes were hospitalized for an average of 22 days.
Bacterial specimens from 625 rooms were collected at admission and periodically up to six months, assuming patients are still on site.
A total of 22% of curtain samples tested positive for multidrug-resistant bacteria, ranging from 12 to 29%, depending on the facility.
The percentage of curtains infected by different insects ranged from 5% for MRSA to 6% for resistant gram-negative bacilli (R-GNB) and 14% for vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE), all of which were potentially fatal.
"There is growing recognition that hospital environments play an important role in the transmission of pathogens," said Mody.
"The curtains of privacy are often affected with dirty hands after a patient interaction," she added. "They are difficult to disinfect and clean."
The concentration of bacteria found by his team on the curtains was higher than on bedside tables, but less than on toilet seats, bed rails and television remotes.
The researchers said their findings – based on "traditional microbiological methods" – should be duplicated using more advanced genomic methods.
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