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      Reduction of Clostridium Difficile and vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus contamination of environmental surfaces after an intervention to improve cleaning methods

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          Contaminated environmental surfaces may play an important role in transmission of some healthcare-associated pathogens. In this study, we assessed the adequacy of cleaning practices in rooms of patients with Clostridium difficile-associated diarrhea (CDAD) and vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus (VRE) colonization or infection and examined whether an intervention would result in improved decontamination of surfaces.


          During a 6-week period, we cultured commonly touched surfaces (i.e. bedrails, telephones, call buttons, door knobs, toilet seats, and bedside tables) in rooms of patients with CDAD and VRE colonization or infection before and after housekeeping cleaning, and again after disinfection with 10% bleach performed by the research staff. After the housekeeping staff received education and feedback, additional cultures were collected before and after housekeeping cleaning during a 10-week follow-up period.


          Of the 17 rooms of patients with VRE colonization or infection, 16 (94%) had one or more positive environmental cultures before cleaning versus 12 (71%) after housekeeping cleaning (p = 0.125), whereas none had positive cultures after bleach disinfection by the research staff (p < 0.001). Of the 9 rooms of patients with CDAD, 100% had positive cultures prior to cleaning versus 7 (78%) after housekeeping cleaning (p = 0.50), whereas only 1 (11%) had positive cultures after bleach disinfection by research staff (p = 0.031). After an educational intervention, rates of environmental contamination after housekeeping cleaning were significantly reduced.


          Our findings provide additional evidence that simple educational interventions directed at housekeeping staff can result in improved decontamination of environmental surfaces. Such interventions should include efforts to monitor cleaning and disinfection practices and provide feedback to the housekeeping staff.

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          Most cited references 18

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          SHEA guideline for preventing nosocomial transmission of multidrug-resistant strains of Staphylococcus aureus and enterococcus.

          Infection control programs were created three decades ago to control antibiotic-resistant healthcare-associated infections, but there has been little evidence of control in most facilities. After long, steady increases of MRSA and VRE infections in NNIS System hospitals, the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America (SHEA) Board of Directors made reducing antibiotic-resistant infections a strategic SHEA goal in January 2000. After 2 more years without improvement, a SHEA task force was appointed to draft this evidence-based guideline on preventing nosocomial transmission of such pathogens, focusing on the two considered most out of control: MRSA and VRE. Medline searches were conducted spanning 1966 to 2002. Pertinent abstracts of unpublished studies providing sufficient data were included. Frequent antibiotic therapy in healthcare settings provides a selective advantage for resistant flora, but patients with MRSA or VRE usually acquire it via spread. The CDC has long-recommended contact precautions for patients colonized or infected with such pathogens. Most facilities have required this as policy, but have not actively identified colonized patients with surveillance cultures, leaving most colonized patients undetected and unisolated. Many studies have shown control of endemic and/or epidemic MRSA and VRE infections using surveillance cultures and contact precautions, demonstrating consistency of evidence, high strength of association, reversibility, a dose gradient, and specificity for control with this approach. Adjunctive control measures are also discussed. Active surveillance cultures are essential to identify the reservoir for spread of MRSA and VRE infections and make control possible using the CDC's long-recommended contact precautions.
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            The role of the intestinal tract as a reservoir and source for transmission of nosocomial pathogens.

            The intestinal tract provides an important reservoir for many nosocomial pathogens, including Enterococcus species, Enterobacteriaciae, Clostridium difficile, and Candida species. These organisms share several common risk factors and often coexist in the intestinal tract. Disruption of normal barriers, such as gastric acidity and the indigenous microflora of the colon, facilitates overgrowth of pathogens. Factors such as fecal incontinence and diarrhea contribute to the subsequent dissemination of pathogens into the health care environment. Selective pressure exerted by antibiotics plays a particularly important role in pathogen colonization, and adverse effects associated with these agents often persist beyond the period of treatment. Infection-control measures that are implemented to control individual pathogens may have a positive or negative impact on efforts to control other pathogens that colonize the intestinal tract.
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              Reduction in acquisition of vancomycin-resistant enterococcus after enforcement of routine environmental cleaning measures.

              The role of environmental contamination in nosocomial cross-transmission of antibiotic-resistant bacteria has been unresolved. Using vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE) as a marker organism, we investigated the effects of improved environmental cleaning with and without promotion of hand hygiene adherence on the spread of VRE in a medical intensive care unit. The study comprised a baseline period (period 1), a period of educational intervention to improve environmental cleaning (period 2), a "washout" period without any specific intervention (period 3), and a period of multimodal hand hygiene intervention (period 4). We performed cultures for VRE of rectal swab samples obtained from patients at admission to the intensive care unit and daily thereafter, and we performed cultures of environmental samples and samples from the hands of health care workers twice weekly. We measured patient clinical and demographic variables and monitored intervention adherence frequently. Our study included 748 admissions to the intensive care unit over a 9-month period. VRE acquisition rates were 33.47 cases per 1000 patient-days at risk for period 1 and 16.84, 12.09, and 10.40 cases per 1000 patient-days at risk for periods 2, 3, and 4, respectively. The mean (+/-SD) weekly rate of environmental sites cleaned increased from 0.48+/-0.08 at baseline to 0.87+/-0.08 in period 2; similarly high cleaning rates persisted in periods 3 and 4. Mean (+/-SD) weekly hand hygiene adherence rate was 0.40+/-0.01 at baseline and increased to 0.57+/-0.11 in period 2, without a specific intervention to improve adherence, but decreased to 0.29+/-0.26 in period 3 and 0.43+/-0.1 in period 4. Mean proportions of positive results of cultures of environmental and hand samples decreased in period 2 and remained low thereafter. In a Cox proportional hazards model, the hazard ratio for acquiring VRE during periods 2-4 was 0.36 (95% confidence interval, 0.19-0.68); the only determinant explaining the difference in VRE acquisition was admission to the intensive care unit during period 1. Decreasing environmental contamination may help to control the spread of some antibiotic-resistant bacteria in hospitals.

                Author and article information

                BMC Infect Dis
                BMC Infectious Diseases
                BioMed Central (London )
                21 June 2007
                : 7
                : 61
                [1 ]Research Service, Louis Stokes Cleveland Veterans Affairs Medical Center, 10701 East Blvd., Cleveland, Ohio, USA
                [2 ]Infection Control Department, Louis Stokes Cleveland Veterans Affairs Medical Center, 10701 East Blvd., Cleveland, Ohio, USA
                [3 ]Department of Medicine, University Hospitals of Cleveland, 10000 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, Ohio, USA
                [4 ]Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, 10900 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, Ohio, USA
                Copyright © 2007 Eckstein et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

                This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

                Research Article

                Infectious disease & Microbiology


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