Cleaning and disinfecting the hard surfaces of medical equipment and rooms in hospitals are vital to ensuring that healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) are prevented.

A group of researchers has looked closer at available evidences that analyze present strategies for cleaning, disinfecting and monitoring the cleanliness of patient rooms. These include other circumstantial aspects that may influence the application and efficacy of the measures.

The researchers looked at data from studies since 1990, obtained insight from key persons, and included investigations into the contamination and colonization of pathogens such as Clostridium difficile, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus or vancomycin-resistant enterococci.

A total of 80 studies were included in the review, of which 76 are primary investigations and four are systematic reviews. Studies that focused on cleaning practices numbered 49 (61 percent) and those on monitoring approaches were 14 (18 percent).

Seventeen reviews (21 percent) were found to respond to obstacles encountered during the implementation processes. Randomized and controlled trials were also examined. Out of these five studies, surface contamination emerged as the most prevalent source of infection.

The findings of the study, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, further show that the intensive care unit is the most fundamental clinical setting of the studies. Out of all the equipment and areas in the hospital, the reviewers found that the most commonly investigated surfaces include call buttons, bed rails, bedside tables, light switches and toilets; nonetheless, there was an ample variation in the high-touch objects examined across all the studies.

"The cleaning of hard surfaces in hospital rooms is critical for reducing healthcare-associated infections," said Jennifer Han, lead author of the study and an assistant professor of medicine and epidemiology at the University of Pennsylvania. Through this review, the researchers were able to gain insight into the changes that have occurred through time with regard to cleaning practices and monitoring cleanliness in hospitals.

The next step is for them to examine the different cleaning methods used for object surfaces, as well as the monitoring practices implemented to identify the most reliable techniques in reducing HAIs, she adds.

In conclusion, the review of the different publications signifies that there is an increased concern in cleaning and disinfecting the environment to help reduce HAIs. The researchers recommend further investigations into environmental cleaning to respond to current limitations and lapses and also further prevent HAIs.

Photo: Mark Hillary | Flickr

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