The battle to reduce high rates of Hospital-Acquired Infections and their associated costs.

By: Kyra Corbett

 

Many of you may have noticed geometric patches of various types of metals affixed to the side of doors or the use of these same materials on railings, door handles, and other high contact areas. No these patches are not used as a new type of modern esthetic there are functional. These surfaces are used to limit the transmission of infectious bacteria from one person to the next. Many high traffic touch surfaces are made of or coated with antimicrobial materials like stainless steel, silver, copper and bronze.

-Antimicrobial Surfaces-

What exactly is an antimicrobial surface you ask? An antimicrobial surface is a surface that reduces the risk of infection by disrupting a surfaces ability to accumulate microbes. What is a microbe? A microbe is a microorganism, especially a bacterium that causes disease or fermentation. Hospital-Acquired Infections (HIA), are infections that a person gains while at the hospital. HIA are paid for by the hospital and are very expensive, a total of 9.8 billion dollars a year is spent worldwide on HIA’s and they cause about 100,000 deaths annually. For the sake of their patient’s health and for the enormous costs of HIA, many hospitals are implementing the use of different antimicrobial surfaces to cut down of the transferring of harmful microbes.

-Coatings-

Anti-adhesive and Antimicrobials  are some of the coating used. Anti-adhesives are a physical method of controlling the spread of microbes, surfaces are covered in substances like Polyethylene glycol, making the surface hydrophilic meaning it has the tendency to mix my water, making it an incompatible environment for hydrophilic bacteria that fails to mix with water. Antimicrobial coatings lower the risk for pathogens being transferred between hands and air and prevent surfaces from becoming a reservoir. A reservoir is something that harbors infectious agents without causing injury to itself, it is a source from which a person can be infected. Examples of reservoirs are people, animals’ plants, and soil.  Examples of these coatings are silver, copper, and triclosan.

-Copper-

In one specific study , copper prototypes of items that were frequently touched and handles by patients, health-care providers, and visitors were made. The prototypes were placed in patient rooms that were located within ICUs. Then, a number of bacteria from each object was measured. For every room in which the copper objects were added, there was a control room without copper objects, a number of bacteria on these non-copper objects was also collected.  The results found that although only 7% of the touch surfaces in each ICU were replaced with copper components, there were 58% fewer HAI cases. Simply replacing the material in which touch objects are made of can have a profound effect on the transmission of infectious microbes.

 

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