Anitbacterial wipes can spread superbugs

Laura Mappas
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Do disinfectant wipes spread bugs? Image: Getty

Instead of getting rid of bacteria, the disinfectant wipes routinely used in hospitals may actually be spreading germs.

Spreading superbugs
British researchers have found that the incorrect use of antibacterial wipes, which are routinely used in hospitals, may actually spread drug-resistant bacteria rather than kill them.

Gareth Williams, a microbiologist from Cardiff University who led the study, said while the wipes killed some bacteria, the study showed how using the same wipe over different surfaces could cause cross-contamination.

Researchers found that healthcare workers cleaned bed rails, monitors and tables near patients with a single wipe, spreading the germs from one surface to another rather than cleaning them up.

"What we have found is there is a high risk [of spreading the bacteria]," Williams says. "We need to give guidance to staff on how to use the wipes."

Risk of infection
The so-called superbug methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus, more commonly known as MRSA, was the focus of the study. Often associated with hospitals, nursing homes and other healthcare facilities, MRSA can cause a range of infections, from boils through to more severe life-threatening and disfiguring infections of the bloodstream, lungs and surgical sites.

The superbug is often only treatable with expensive intravenous antibiotics.

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