Disinfectant fails to remove superbugs from hospital surgical gowns, study finds

Researchers find Clostridium difficile spores and advise robust infection control

Researchers find Clostridium difficile spores and advise robust infection control

Researchers’ photo shows presence of Clostridium difficile after distinfection.  
Picture: Alan Stewart/University of Plymouth/PA Wire 

Surgical gowns retain superbugs even after being treated with the recommended amount of disinfectant, a study has found.

Researchers tested single-use hospital surgical gowns made from polypropylene that had been infected with three different strains of Clostridium difficile (C. difficile).

Recommended dose

They treated the gowns for 10 minutes with disinfectant containing 1,000 parts per million of chlorine – the amount and time recommended by the Department of Health and Social Care.

But strains of C. difficile spores remained on the gowns and did not reduce, allowing them to potentially transfer on to other items, researchers said.

The study, by the universities of Plymouth and Cardiff, was published in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology.

Hidden danger

University of Plymouth lecturer in molecular microbiology and lead researcher on the study, Tina Joshi, said the research showed the danger posed by C. difficile.

‘This study shows that, even when we think an item has been suitably cleaned, it hasn’t been necessarily – 1,000 parts per million of chlorine just isn’t enough because the bacteria survived and grew after disinfection,’ she said.

Importance of hygiene

‘As well as possibly upping the concentration of the biocide, the research highlights the need for appropriate hygiene practices.

‘Gowns should not be worn outside of isolated areas because our work has shown that C. difficile spores are good at sticking to clinical surfaces, and can so easily be transferred, causing infections in patients.’

Dr Joshi also said it was worrying that biocides were losing their effectiveness.

‘In an age where infections are becoming resistant to antibiotics, it’s worrying to think that other bacteria are becoming resistant to biocides,’ she said.

‘So the best thing we can do is ensure that infection control procedures are robust and standardised.’

Further information

Read more about the research

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