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09-04-2013 | Infectious disease | Article

Decontamination of unused hospital supplies prevents waste

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medwireNews: Using hydrogen peroxide vapor to decontaminate unused hospital supplies that may have come into contact with multidrug-resistant organisms (MDROs) is effective and could save a significant amount of money, report researchers.

"Our study results show that supplies in the rooms of patients in isolation precautions can become contaminated with MDROs, which may present a risk to other patients if they are not discarded or disinfected when the patient is discharged," said study investigator Trish Perl (Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland, USA) in a press statement.

"Hydrogen peroxide vapor looks to be a cost-effective and environmentally-friendly means to manage potentially contaminated packaged supplies."

The researchers carried out a pilot study disinfecting the surface of packaged, unused medical supplies stored in the rooms of 20 patients who were infected or colonized with vancomycin-resistant enterococci, and then a follow-up in the rooms of 20 patients who were "under precautions" for several different MDROs in six different hospital units.

The team picked five pairs of items from each room and disinfected the surface of one item from each pair with hydrogen peroxide vapor. Both items were then tested for surface contamination with various pathogens.

As reported in Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology, Perl and colleagues found that seven items out of 100 and nine items out of 100 were contaminated in the pilot and follow-up studies, respectively. However, none of these items had been disinfected with hydrogen peroxide vapor.

To estimate how much money could be saved by using this technique, Perl and co-authors calculated the total annual cost of discarded supplies due to possible contamination on the six high risk units included in the study as US$ 387,055 (€ 295,696), which represents a considerable potential saving of about US$ 65,000 (€49,648) per unit per year.

The team acknowledges that further research would be useful, but say "these data demonstrate that treated supplies can be safely used on new patients when a patient under precautions is discharged."

They conclude: "This novel use of hydrogen peroxide vapor could generate financial and environmental benefits and further protect patients."

medwireNews (www.medwirenews.com) is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2013

By Helen Albert, Senior medwireNews Reporter

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