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Study: Infectious Diarrhea Germs Stick to Health Care Workers’ Hands

Contamination highest among nursing assistants (December 23)

A new study finds nearly one in four health care workers’ hands were contaminated with Clostridium difficile spores after routine care of patients infected with the bacteria. The report was published in the January issue of Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology.

“This is the first known study focusing on the carriage of viable C. difficile spores on health care workers’ hands,” said lead author Caroline Landelle, PharmD, PhD. “Because C. difficile spores are so resistant and persistent to disinfection, glove use is not an absolute barrier against the contamination of health care workers’ hands. Effective hand hygiene should be performed, even in non-outbreak settings.”

Researchers compared hand contamination rates among health care workers caring for patients with C. difficile with those of health care workers caring for non-colonized patients after routine patient care and before hand hygiene. All patients with C. difficile were being treated with infection-control measures.

Contamination of health care workers’ hands occurred with high-risk contact (e.g., patient washing, digital rectal exam, bed linen change, and colonoscopy) or when workers didn’t use gloves. Hand contamination was more common among nursing assistants (42%) than among other health care workers (23% for physicians and 19% for nurses), likely because nursing assistants had more high-risk contact.

In a commentary accompanying the article, Aurora Pop-Vicas, MD, notes that “this study offers a vivid insight into why C. difficile might be so stubbornly persistent in our hospital… Much work remains to be done in implementing what is known about the prevention of the spread of these bacteria through horizontal transmission. Additional measures include improvement in antimicrobial stewardship programs and effective environmental cleaning within health care institutions.”

Source: Medical Xpress; December 23, 2013.

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