Privacy curtains inside patients' rooms in hospitals could be potential carriers of deadly and drug-resistant superbacteria, a new study in Michigan revealed.

This comes on the heels of reports about antimicrobial resistance as a growing problem worldwide. This is why experts believe identifying and cross-examining sources are vital in combating this issue, and so the results of the study should be taken seriously.

"As privacy curtains are used all over the world, it is a global issue," said Dr. Lona Mody, one of the coauthors of the new report, which will be presented at the European Congress of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases in Amsterdam.

Hospital Curtains Carry Deadly Bacteria

In the new study, Mody and her colleagues sampled at least 611 curtains inside specialist wards across six rehabilitation units and nursing homes in Michigan.

The team sampled the curtains when the patient was first admitted, and then sampled the curtains again after two weeks, after one month, and then every month up to six months later, with a total of 1,521 samples collected at the end of the study.

What they found was that one in every five curtains was rife with multi-drug resistant organisms and other deadly bacteria.

In fact, researchers found that at least 28 percent of curtains were contaminated with drug-resistant bacteria. They also found that 5 percent of the curtains were contaminated with methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and 17 percent were contaminated with vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE).

VRE was found to be most prevalent in 210 of the cultures grown in the lab. VRE is a bacteria that causes bloodstream infections.

Mody explained that pathogens found on privacy curtains often have the potential to transfer to other surfaces.

What's more, Mody and her team found that the same bug was contaminated on both the curtains and the patients in bed. Among one in every seven cases, patients and their curtains contained multi-drug resistant organisms, researchers said.

Other Hospital Equipment And Tools Are Also Contaminated With Bacteria

This is not the first time that potentially deadly bacteria have been found on curtains or hospital equipment.

In 2012, a report revealed that 12 out of 13 curtains sampled showed contamination after a week, while 41 of 43 curtains showed contamination on at least one occasion, with 21 percent of curtains contaminated with MRSA and 42 percent contaminated with VRE.

Meanwhile, another study presented at the conference in Amsterdam revealed that tourniquets used by nurses are also contaminated by bacteria.

Scientists in Portugal reviewed 20 studies that looked at contaminated rubber and fabric bands used whenever nurses inserted catheters or drew blood from patients.

This other study showed that at least 441 of 1,500 reusable tourniquets had traces of coagulase-negative staphylococci, which is a bacteria that is normally part of the human skin but can cause infections.

Furthermore, 15 of the 20 studies that the researchers reviewed revealed microbial contamination in 70 percent of the tourniquets.

"The majority of these tourniquets analysed have huge quantities of microorganisms," said Dr. Nadia Osorio, member of the team from Polytechnic Institute of Coimbra, who performed the study.

What To Do To Prevent Contamination Of Drug-resistant Bacteria

What must be done to keep patients safe from the transmission of bacteria from these contaminated curtains is that the curtains must be regularly cleaned, said Mody. Healthcare workers must also regularly wash their hands properly. Another solution is to redesign privacy curtains to have removable handles, added Mody.

Photo: Fotos GOVBA | Flickr

ⓒ 2021 All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.