Big scientific word: sporulation.  What’s it mean?  It’s when a bacterium in a vegetative state awakens into a protected spore state.  Did you know that some disinfectants can in fact promote this activity?  With something like C. diff., that is a very bad thing. 

In healthcare, we all know C. diff.. Very bad reputation.  Transmitted in feces, which doesn’t help its rep any.  But it’s not like you only find it in a pile of stuff.  Not just toilets, or diapers, or bed linens.  No, it’s amazing how feces can get into everything.  It just does, trust me.  So, it’s danger is everywhere and we need to be sure to kill it at every opportunity.  And keep at it every day because this stuff can live for up to five months as a spore on a hard surface- like a floor. 

There is that word.  Spore.  What we use to clean and disinfect may or may not actually kill the spore.  If you are using something that doesn’t kill the spore, you may be just wasting your time. 

The disinfectants most often used in healthcare are quaternary ammoniums and phenolics.  Neither kills spores.  New big scientific word: hypersporulation.  This one means sporulation occurring at an increased rate because of contact with some germicides.  Kinda like we’re feeding the bacteria steroids! 

But, you say, the EPA approved this stuff and it’s a registered germicide.  Read the fine print- kills vegetative bacteria, not spores.  The only thing that kills spores is a chlorine based disinfectant and activated hydrogen peroxide formulations.  Good old-fashioned bleach and hydrogen peroxide. 

This stuff stinks.  And it is corrosive.  And it makes people, even healthy people, breathe funny.  So what is next?  Those in the business of providing germicides are on this and have come up with new EPA approved products that kill spores, but are safe enough for everyday use as a general surface disinfectant. 

These products can be used on hard and nonporous surfaces, while the room is occupied, and for terminal cleaning since they are both cleaner and disinfectant.  They are also budget friendly because they require little training of the housekeeping staff, are relatively inexpensive, allow for more rapid room turnover as they require less exposure time, and, they come in concentrates or ready to use sprays and wipes.

This is a key point, right here, so remember this.  To really disinfect and prevent bad boy C. diff. from getting a foothold, you have to CLEAN and DISINFECT.  Good products are available.  Use them! 

Information in this blog has been taken from: “Focusing on Prevention: Environmental Infection Protection” in Guide to Preventing Clostridium difficile Infections

Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology