03 June 2008

Antibacterial wipes - as reliable as they seem?

The general meeting of the American Society for Microbiology is taking place in Boston this week, and the agenda is rich with papers on MRSA. Here is one from today, with interesting and dismaying news.

A team from the Welsh School of Pharmacy at Cardiff University tested the killing efficacy of premoistened antibacterial wipes used to decontaminate surfaces in hospitals. No brand is specified in the abstract, but they are described as "commercially available wipes containing either disinfectant, detergent or natural antimicrobial" that are called for in the "disinfection regimens adopted in [intensive care units] in the UK."

The team, led by Dr. Gareth Williams and funded by the Wales Office of Research and Development for Health and Social Care, devised a three-step protocol to test the ability of the wipes to remove, kill, and prevent transfer of Staph aureus and MRSA from surfaces. To guarantee consistency and replicability, the protocol included the use of a device that mechanically rotated the wipes against contaminated surfaces at a particular pressure (100 grams +/- 5) and speed (60 rpm).

And the results are: not so great. The wipes did remove bacteria, but did not kill them. When the used wipes were pressed against agar plates, the plates grew bacterial colonies, raising the possibility that the wipes would transfer viable bacteria between surfaces in real-world use. The team's conclusion:
We recommend that a wipe is not to be used on consecutive surfaces, but only on a small area and discarded immediately after use.
The cite is: Determining the Ability of Surface Wipes to Remove, Kill and Prevent the Transfer of Staphylococcus aureus from Contaminated Surfaces. GJ Williams, SP Denyer, IK Hosein, DW Hill and JY Maillard. Poster 860, 108th General Meeting ASM.

(By the way, I am posting this using Blogger's new post-date utility. If it works, this post should magically appear at 1p EDT on 3 June. If it shows up early, someone will have some splaining to do.)

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