Infection Control. Can Antibacterial Wipes Spread Superbugs?

Reuters and The Canadian Press recently picked up a story regarding research conducted on three types of wipes – one containing detergent, another containing a disinfectant, and a third containing a natural antimicrobial product at the Cardiff University’s School of Pharmacy. According to both Reuters and The Canadian Press, data from the study showed that if antimicrobial wipes are used on more than one surface, they could transfer pathogens from one surface to another. The researchers concluded that guidance needs to be given to the staff on how to use wipes with the provision of guidelines stating that antimicrobial wipes should be used on a single surface only – One Wipe, One Surface. Not true. According to Virox Technologies, “if we read the articles carefully, it is clear that the study is not stating antimicrobial wipes are ineffective.” The study is reinstating best practices of how to appropriately use products and confirming what everyone involved in environmental services should already know.

Best practices for cleaning surfaces, regardless of whether an antimicrobial wipe, terry cloth, or microfibre cloth is used dictates that we clean in order from cleanest to dirtiest, that we use clean areas of cloth on each new surface, and that we change clothes when visibly soiled or when moving from one area to another. These are the principles that Virox teaches its environmental services staff – one cloth for patient areas and one cloth for bathroom areas. To simplify, the company specifies a different colored cloth for each location. Clothes should also be changed when visibly soiled. Clean, unused sections of the cloths should be used on each surface – the principle of folding clothes into eights, clean an area, fold the cloth to use a new section to clean the next area, and so forth.

As Dr. Andrew Simor, head of Microbiology at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto was quoted saying, “North American infection control recommendations would specify that a wipe should be used to clean a single area and then should be discarded.”
Education is paramount to ensuring products are used appropriately. If staff using cleaning and disinfecting products do not have the basic understanding of best practices for cleaning within a healthcare facility there is a risk of transferring pathogens from one surface to another.
As suppliers of cleaning and disinfecting products to healthcare facilities cleaning professionals also need to consider that while their initial contact for example maybe with environmental services or infection control, products do tend to find their way into all areas of the hospital. Training then needs to be provided to everyone who may be using the products to ensure they are used correctly. Environmental services staff, nursing staff, clinical services such as X-Ray Technicians, Respiratory Therapists or Physiotherapists, and other facility support staff that have a responsibility for cleaning and disinfecting surfaces or medical equipment need to be included and invited to training sessions on the appropriate and correct methods to be used for cleaning and disinfecting.
As Gareth Williams, the lead researcher for the study, stated, “We found the most effective way to prevent the risk of MRSA spread in hospital wards is to ensure the wipe is used only once on one surface.”

This should not come as a shock to anyone. Best practices for infection control recommend exactly this and this is how Environmental Services staff are trained. All staff within a healthcare facility need to understand how to appropriately use antimicrobial wipes.
Material supplied by Virox Technologies Inc.