Study Reinforces Need to Disinfect Hospital Restrooms

Sinks next to toilets harbor bacteria linked to HAIs

February 7, 2019

Hospital environmental services (EVS) teams may want to increase their disinfection efforts after a new study published in the American Journal of Infection Control found a high prevalence of Klebsiella pneumoniae carbapenemase (KPC) bacteria on sinks located next to toilets in patient rooms.

Researchers took bacterial samples from patient room sinks in the medical intensive care unit at a 600-bed hospital in Milwaukee, WI. Of the samples, 87 percent of patient sinks located next to toilets tested positive for KPC, compared to 21 percent of sinks located away from the toilet, closer to the restroom door.

KPC bacteria can cause health care-associated infections (HAIs), including pneumonia, bloodstream infections, wound infections, and surgical site infections. The pathogens have increasingly become more antibiotic-resistant.

Although researchers are still investigating the cause of the KPC contamination, they speculate the source of the bacteria is biofilms growing in pipes shared between toilets and sinks, or water drops generated by flushing the toilet that reach the sinks. They recommend that EVS staff pay attention to hospital surfaces at risk of cross-contamination.

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