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      The public washroom - friend or foe? An observational study of washroom cleanliness combined with microbiological investigation of hand hygiene facilities

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          Abstract

          Background

          Many people use handwashing and hand-drying facilities in public washrooms under the impression that these amenities are hygienic. However, such facilities may be potential sites for the transmission of pathogenic bacteria. This study aimed to examine the hygiene facilities provided including handwashing and hand-drying facilities in public washrooms. Total bacterial counts and species identification were determined for hand-drying facilities. Antimicrobial susceptibilities were performed.

          Methods

          The bacterial contamination levels of 55 public washrooms ranging in category from low class communities to high end establishments, were examined. The hygienic environment and facilities of the washrooms were analysed using an electronic checklist to facilitate immediate data entry. Pre-moistened sterile swabs were used to collect samples from areas around the outlet of paper towel dispensers, air outlet of air dryers, exit door handles and paper towels in the washrooms. Total bacterial counts were performed and isolates identified using matrix-assisted laser desorption ionisation time-of-flight mass spectrometry. Antimicrobial susceptibility was determined by disk diffusion.

          Results

          The high and middle-income categories washrooms generally had cleaner facilities and environment followed by those in low categories. Fifty-two bacterial species were identified from the 55 investigated washrooms. Over 97% of the pathogenic Staphylococcus spp. tested were resistant to at least one first-line antimicrobial therapeutic agent, including penicillin, cefoxitin, erythromycin, co-trimoxazole, clindamycin and gentamicin, and 22.6% demonstrated co-resistance to at least three antimicrobial agents, with co-resistance to penicillin, erythromycin and clindamycin being the most common.

          Conclusion

          Our findings suggest that hand-drying facilities in public washrooms can act as reservoirs of drug-resistant bacteria. The importance of frequent cleaning and maintenance of public washrooms to promote safe hand hygiene practices for the public are emphasised.

          Electronic supplementary material

          The online version of this article (10.1186/s13756-019-0500-z) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.

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          Most cited references 19

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          Evidence that contaminated surfaces contribute to the transmission of hospital pathogens and an overview of strategies to address contaminated surfaces in hospital settings.

          Evidence that contaminated surfaces contribute to the transmission of hospital pathogens comes from studies modeling transmission routes, microbiologic studies, observational epidemiologic studies, intervention studies, and outbreak reports. This review presents evidence that contaminated surfaces contribute to transmission and discusses the various strategies currently available to address environmental contamination in hospitals. Copyright © 2013 Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology, Inc. Published by Mosby, Inc. All rights reserved.
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            Microbial Biogeography of Public Restroom Surfaces

            We spend the majority of our lives indoors where we are constantly exposed to bacteria residing on surfaces. However, the diversity of these surface-associated communities is largely unknown. We explored the biogeographical patterns exhibited by bacteria across ten surfaces within each of twelve public restrooms. Using high-throughput barcoded pyrosequencing of the 16 S rRNA gene, we identified 19 bacterial phyla across all surfaces. Most sequences belonged to four phyla: Actinobacteria, Bacteriodetes, Firmicutes and Proteobacteria. The communities clustered into three general categories: those found on surfaces associated with toilets, those on the restroom floor, and those found on surfaces routinely touched with hands. On toilet surfaces, gut-associated taxa were more prevalent, suggesting fecal contamination of these surfaces. Floor surfaces were the most diverse of all communities and contained several taxa commonly found in soils. Skin-associated bacteria, especially the Propionibacteriaceae, dominated surfaces routinely touched with our hands. Certain taxa were more common in female than in male restrooms as vagina-associated Lactobacillaceae were widely distributed in female restrooms, likely from urine contamination. Use of the SourceTracker algorithm confirmed many of our taxonomic observations as human skin was the primary source of bacteria on restroom surfaces. Overall, these results demonstrate that restroom surfaces host relatively diverse microbial communities dominated by human-associated bacteria with clear linkages between communities on or in different body sites and those communities found on restroom surfaces. More generally, this work is relevant to the public health field as we show that human-associated microbes are commonly found on restroom surfaces suggesting that bacterial pathogens could readily be transmitted between individuals by the touching of surfaces. Furthermore, we demonstrate that we can use high-throughput analyses of bacterial communities to determine sources of bacteria on indoor surfaces, an approach which could be used to track pathogen transmission and test the efficacy of hygiene practices.
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              Role of copper in reducing hospital environment contamination.

              The environment may act as a reservoir for pathogens that cause healthcare-associated infections (HCAIs). Approaches to reducing environmental microbial contamination in addition to cleaning are thus worthy of consideration. Copper is well recognised as having antimicrobial activity but this property has not been applied to the clinical setting. We explored its use in a novel cross-over study on an acute medical ward. A toilet seat, set of tap handles and a ward entrance door push plate each containing copper were sampled for the presence of micro-organisms and compared to equivalent standard, non-copper-containing items on the same ward. Items were sampled once weekly for 10 weeks at 07:00 and 17:00. After five weeks, the copper-containing and non-copper-containing items were interchanged. The total aerobic microbial counts per cm(2) including the presence of 'indicator micro-organisms' were determined. Median numbers of microorganisms harboured by the copper-containing items were between 90% and 100% lower than their control equivalents at both 07:00 and 17:00. This reached statistical significance for each item with one exception. Based on the median total aerobic cfu counts from the study period, five out of ten control sample points and zero out of ten copper points failed proposed benchmark values of a total aerobic count of <5cfu/cm(2). All indicator micro-organisms were only isolated from control items with the exception of one item during one week. The use of copper-containing materials for surfaces in the hospital environment may therefore be a valuable adjunct for the prevention of HCAIs and requires further evaluation. Copyright 2009 The Hospital Infection Society. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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                Author and article information

                Contributors
                852-2766-7475 , lorna.suen@polyu.edu.hk
                3400 8598 , gilman.siu@polyu.edu.hk
                yueping201112@gmail.com
                852-3400 3211 , simonyeung.kw@gmail.com
                kikiyk.lo@polyu.edu.hk
                852-2766 4955 , margaret.o.donoghue@polyu.edu.hk
                Journal
                Antimicrob Resist Infect Control
                Antimicrob Resist Infect Control
                Antimicrobial Resistance and Infection Control
                BioMed Central (London )
                2047-2994
                28 February 2019
                28 February 2019
                2019
                : 8
                Affiliations
                [1 ]ISNI 0000 0004 1764 6123, GRID grid.16890.36, School of Nursing, , The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, ; Hung Hom, Hong Kong, SAR China
                [2 ]ISNI 0000 0004 1764 6123, GRID grid.16890.36, Department of Health Technology and Informatics, , The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, ; Hung Hom, Hong Kong, SAR China
                Article
                500
                10.1186/s13756-019-0500-z
                6396476
                81fa77fa-db91-4272-8ab6-6819e5a37cab
                © The Author(s). 2019

                Open AccessThis article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/) applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

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                © The Author(s) 2019

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