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News - November 2017

Stopping the spread of infection with bug-busting materials

Stopping the spread of infection with bug-busting materials

Antimicrobial materials and coatings are becoming a driving force in the fight against healthcare associated infections (HCAIs).

Increasingly, hospitals, health centres, and other care facilities are specifying bug-busting materials to support improvements to cleaning practices.

Recently, Dr Michail Karavolos, the new technical manager at antimicrobial technology supplier BioCote, told delegates at the Healthcare Estates Management Conference that reducing HCAIs and addressing growing antibiotic resistance could only be achieved by NHS estate managers being more open to technology.

Open to technology

He said the current HCAI regime of infection prevention and control strategies – including hand hygiene, cleaning and training procedures – has ‘long proven to be ineffective’, with 16 million extra hospital days required, according to figures from the World Health Organization, and 37,000 attributable deaths in Europe each year.

This equates to annual financial losses of approximately €7billion in Europe.

And central to the problem is the healthcare estate.

Dr Karavolos told the conference: “Healthcare settings, particularly, along with other highly-populated environments, are a breeding ground because of shared facilities and enclosed environments, circulated air, common contact surfaces, and extended mixing.

“Common disinfectants have limited residual effects and bacterial populations are rapidly displaying increased resistance to them.”

But companies like BioCote are helping to address the problem by creating materials that help to make key surfaces inhospitable to pathogenic micro-organisms.

One of these is BioCote’s own silver ion-based technology, which has additives introduced during the manufacturing process to exert, by either chemical or mechanical means, a negative effect on any contaminating microbe, causing them to die.

“Silver ions, especially, with their very-high efficacy and non-toxic properties, can be manufactured into a wide range of materials, including plastics, polymers, paints, textiles, fabrics, ceramics, paper, board and many other materials”, Dr Karavolos said.

Silver lining

“While BioCote technology doesn’t remove the need for regular cleaning; it is the best complementary strategy - with integrated antimicrobial protection providing a much-more-comprehensive and robust solution to contamination within hospitals.”

BioCote Silver Ion Antimicrobial Technology has been found to be effective against a wide range of leading superbugs, destroying up to 99.99% of bacteria, fungus, mould and even viruses like H1N1 through proven protein and oxidative damage, membrane disruption and DNA interference.

And he fed back results for a ‘live’ 18-month hospital case study in which BioCote antimicrobial protected materials regularly demonstrated reductions in bacteria.

The study also indicated lower numbers of bacteria on other nearby untreated surfaces due to the fact there are fewer bacteria in the surroundings.

Also utilising the properties of silver ion technology, P-Wave has recently announced the launch of two new systems to help reduce the spread of germs from door handles.

P-Hold fits over existing door handles and comes in three sizes, taking just 30 seconds to install; while P-Plate replaces existing push plates when there is no handle.

Both systems are long lasting and low maintenance and utilise silver ion technology.

Another material being widely incorporated into a variety of products, from bed rails and drip stands to door push plates and handles, is copper.

Franz Lorenschitz of antimicrobial ironmongery specialist, Allgood, said: “Due to the dynamic nature of healthcare environments, and the patients who occupy them, it is very hard to completely eradicate contamination and the spread of bacteria and viruses. However, there are additional measures that can be taken to further mitigate the risk.

“One such measure, which is proving especially popular, is the use of ironmongery with antimicrobial properties.

Reducing risk

“As surface contact is one of the predominant vectors by which contamination and HCAIs are spread, specifying high-touch antimicrobial ironmongery items such as pull handles, cabinet and lever handles, push plates, and WC turns can be a very-effective way to reduce the risk.”

But, he warned specifiers to be aware of some important distinctions and comparisons between ironmongery that has intrinsic antimicrobial qualities and that which merely has an antimicrobial coating.

Explaining the pitfalls, he told hdm: “What can be confusing for those within the healthcare sector specifying, or thinking of opting for, antimicrobial ironmongery is the presence of products that are coated claiming antimicrobial properties in a laboratory setting.

“Whereas the potency of protection against the spread of HCAIs in an antimicrobial copper product arises from its elemental make-up, those that are coated provide less of a guarantee of both short-term efficacy and long-term effectiveness.”

In addition to an ongoing disparity in laboratory testing methods; there is also a large potential difference when it comes to durability, and thus cost effectiveness, of antimicrobial-coated products versus copper and copper alloy products.

“Antimicrobial copper ironmongery has a significant lifespan in the order of decades as it continuously kills microbes and never wears out, which is an essential requirement for busy healthcare environments where there is a high volume of human traffic,” said Lorenschitz.

A poor understanding

“The same cannot be said of coated products and questions remain to be answered. How durable are coatings? What happens if the active antimicrobial agent becomes scratched or depleted from the surface? Will the effective ‘dose’ from coatings be large enough and sustained over time?

“Recent papers suggest there is a poor understanding of these issues.”

“Hospitals and medical facilities strive to create the healthiest and most-hygienic environments possible”, he added.

“Consequently, in order to limit the spread of dangerous bacteria and disease, many facilities are now turning to antimicrobial copper to stop the spread of infections.

“But, to guarantee the long-term efficacy, durability and cost effectiveness of ironmongery designed to eradicate harmful pathogenic microbes in the medical sector, it is best to remember ‘if it’s not copper, it’s not proper’.

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