There have been any numbers of movies with evil villains who are seemingly impossible to kill.  Lop off a head and rather than one dead bad guy you now have two live ones.  Regeneration from the parts.  A little like an octopus whose tentacles grow back.  Bacteria are similar, in a slightly different way.

Lincoln said you can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but not all of the people all of the time.  Bacteria are like that.  You can kill all of them rarely, some of them often, but not all of them every time.  So what does this mean for the fate of humanity?  Are we doomed to be vanquished by bacteria?  Lets take a look at this.

As referenced below, research was conducted at the Medical University of South Carolina studying the resiliency of bacteria on the bed rails of 36 beds in the medical intensive care unit (MICU).  Of course we all know that commonly touched items in a patient care setting, like the rails on a patient bed, are great places for bacteria to live and thrive.  They are close to their patient host and have ample opportunity to jump to a new host.  A nurse, a doctor, an aide.  Even a family member or other visitor.  Anyone who touches that bedrail.

So, the study was conducted by measuring the volume of bacteria on the bed rails prior to any cleaning, and then again at the intervals of .5, 2.5, 4.5 and 6.5 hours after cleaning.  The majority of bacteria recovered from the bed rails in the MICU were staphylococci, but not methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. Vancomycin-resistant enterococci were recovered from 3 beds.  Beds were sanitized with either a bottled disinfectant (BD; CaviCide) or an automated bulk-diluted disinfectant (ABDD; Virex II 256).

The results?  Bottled disinfectant killed 99 per cent of the bacteria.  Good news!  After 6.5 hours, 30 percent of the bacteria had returned.  Bad news.  The bulk diluted disinfectant had success as well, but not as much.  Only 45 percent of the bacteria were initially killed, and after just 2.5 hours bacteria had rebounded to the original levels.

And in layman’s terms this means what?  We can win the battle, or at least hold our own, and in so doing provide good healthcare to our patients.  Without a doubt we must clean our hospitals with approved disinfectants.  We must clean them everyday.  And we must clean them very thoroughly.  I mean, if a bacteria is so small you need a microscope to see it, how hard would it be for the thing to hide from some big human hand waving a disinfectant soaked wiping cloth at it?

Information for this blog was derived from the following source:

Intrinsic bacterial burden associated with intensive care unit hospital beds: Effects of disinfection on population recovery and mitigation of potential infection risk.

Attaway HH 3rdFairey SSteed LLSalgado CDMichels HTSchmidt MG.

Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, SC.

Copyright © 2012 Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology, Inc. Published by Mosby, Inc.