Superbugs cling to hospital gowns even after they have been disinfected

Henry Bodkin
Scientists at the University of Plymouth time-tested the bacteria and disinfectant - CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION2015

Dangerous superbugs are clinging on to surgical gowns and instruments even after the items have been disinfected, scientists have revealed.

Hospitals have been warned to monitor their hygiene practices after tests showed the pathogen C. difficile is becoming resistant to standard decontamination agents.

The bug, which is thought to be responsible for around 1,600 deaths a year in the UK, can cause diarrhea, fever, rapid heartbeat, inflammation of the intestines, and kidney failure.

It is thought to be particularly dangerous for elderly patients.

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

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.

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

Dr Tina Joshi, who led the research at the University of Plymouth, said: "C difficile is a really nasty superbug and it's so important that hospitals stop it from spreading.

"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 as the bacteria survived and grew after disinfection.

"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 as 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.

"In an age where infections are becoming resistant to antibiotics, it's worrying to think that other bacteria are becoming resistant to biocides.”

The research is published in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology.