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19-06-2012 | General practice | Article

Unwelcome hotel ‘guests’ uncovered


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MedWire News: An investigation into the cleanliness of various surfaces and objects in hotel rooms in three US states has revealed that 81% of surfaces are contaminated with coliform bacteria.

The researchers found that the most contaminated surfaces were the TV remote, telephone, and light switches.

Katie Kirsch (University of Houston, Texas, USA) presented the data at the General Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology in San Francisco, California, USA. She and her colleagues hope that their findings will help hotels focus cleaning time on the most contaminated surfaces to ensure the ongoing health of guests.

"Currently, housekeepers clean 14-16 rooms per 8-hour shift, spending approximately 30 minutes on each room. Identifying high-risk items within a hotel room would allow housekeeping managers to strategically design cleaning practices and allocate time to efficiently reduce the potential health risks posed by microbial contamination in hotel rooms," commented Kirsch in a press statement.

The researchers used the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points system to objectively evaluate bacterial contamination of surfaces and objects in hotel rooms. In total, 18 surfaces including mops and sponges used by cleaners, the headboard of the bed, the remote control of the TV, the telephone, and light switches were swabbed using a sterile moist swab technique.

The samples were then cultured overnight and assessed for coliform bacteria and aerobic plate counts (APCs).

Overall, 81% of surfaces were contaminated with coliform bacteria. The sponges and mops used by the cleaners had high APCs and coliform levels, at 2.61 and 1.95 log colony forming units (CFU)/cm2 and 2.76 and 0.79 log CFU/cm2, respectively.

The TV remote, phone, and light switches also had high APCs and coliform bacteria counts, whereas the headboard had the lowest level of contamination, at 0.16 log CFU/cm2 APCs alone.

"Hoteliers have an obligation to provide their guests with a safe and secure environment," said Kirsch. "Currently, housekeeping practices vary across brands and properties with little or no standardization industry wide. The current validation method for hotel room cleanliness is a visual assessment, which has been shown to be ineffective in measuring levels of sanitation."

By Helen Albert

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