Hospital privacy curtains are frequently and rapidly contaminated with potentially pathogenic bacteria.

Link to article at PubMed

Hospital privacy curtains are frequently and rapidly contaminated with potentially pathogenic bacteria.

Am J Infect Control. 2012 Mar 29;

Authors: Ohl M, Schweizer M, Graham M, Heilmann K, Boyken L, Diekema D

Abstract
BACKGROUND: Privacy curtains are a potentially important site of bacterial contamination in hospitals. We performed a longitudinal study to determine the prevalence and time course of bacterial contamination on privacy curtains. METHODS: Over a 3-week period, swab cultures (n = 180) were obtained twice weekly from the leading edge of 43 curtains in 30 rooms in 2 intensive care units and a medical ward. Curtains were marked to determine when they were changed. Contamination with Staphylococcus aureus, methicillin-resistant S aureus (MRSA), Enterococcus spp, vancomycin-resistant enterococcus (VRE), or aerobic gram-negative rods was determined by standard microbiologic methods. To distinguish persistence of pathogens on curtains from recontamination, all VRE and MRSA were typed using pulsed-field gel electrophoresis. RESULTS: Twelve of 13 curtains (92%) placed during the study showed contamination within 1 week. Forty-one of 43 curtains (95%) demonstrated contamination on at least 1 occasion, including 21% with MRSA and 42% with VRE. Eight curtains yielded VRE at multiple time points: 3 with persistence of a single isolate type and 5 with different types, suggesting frequent recontamination. CONCLUSION: Privacy curtains are rapidly contaminated with potentially pathogenic bacteria. Further studies should investigate the role of privacy curtains in pathogen transmission and provide interventions to reduce curtain contamination.

PMID: 22464039 [PubMed - as supplied by publisher]

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