Concerns about hospital "superbugs" have spotlighted the need to prevent the spread of germs in health-care settings. But a new report reveals a disturbing lack of knowledge on something as basic as proper cleaning of a patient's room.
Very little research addresses the best ways to disinfect and sanitize the hard surfaces in a hospital room, investigators report in the Aug. 11 issue of Annals of Internal Medicine.
"We basically found that there are studies available to guide actions, but there are much fewer than you might expect for such an important issue," said lead author Dr. Craig Umscheid, an assistant professor of medicine and epidemiology at the University of Pennsylvania's Perelman School of Medicine in Philadelphia.
At any given time, about one in every 25 hospital patients has an infection they got from being at a hospital, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. An estimated 721,000 health care-related infections occurred in 2011, which led to about 75,000 deaths, the authors noted in background information.
Hand-washing receives much attention for preventing the spread of germs, but disinfecting the hard surfaces in an examination room or hospital suite can be just as important, Umscheid said. Many dangerous germs are spread by touching counters, floors, tray tables, bed rails, IV pulls, light switches, toilets, and even call buttons.
Many experts believe that only 50 percent of surfaces are typically disinfected during cleaning of a patient's room, according to background notes.
For this report, researchers reviewed 80 studies published between 1998 and 2014.
The investigators found only five randomized, controlled trials that explored the best ways to disinfect surfaces. Most were before/after studies, in which germs were measured on a surface before and after a cleaning product had been used.
Fewer than 35 percent of the studies focused on infection rates or spread of disease due to unclean surfaces, the researchers said.
They also found that most studies only examined the effectiveness of a single cleaning product or method, rather than comparing it against others.
More at source: WEBMD
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