attach biocidal permanent clean computer keyboards control hospital infection disease causing species hia hospital acquired infection infection healthcare facilities non survial microbes pathogenic bacteria prevent microorganisms preventative microbe method

Protecting the Environments That Protect You

Reports regarding resistant organisms and hospital-acquired infections (HAI) worldwide suggest that the problem has reached epidemic proportions. These organisms pose an additional risk of morbidity and/or mortality to patients with life-threatening diseases and/or an immune-compromised system. According to a recent US report (PHC4 Research Briefs, 2006) the recent rate of HAI is 13.7 per 1,000 admissions. The average length of hospital days is 21.1 days versus 4.5 days without HAI. The average hospital cost for patients with HAIs is $197,717 versus $31, 617 without hospital-acquired infections (USA figures).

Health care environments, unfortunately, tend to be a myriad of places for bacteria, viruses and fungi to grow, reproduce or simply just survive. Risk associated with exposure to these organisms is due to three factors - the virulence or potency of the organisms, the susceptibility or vulnerability of the individuals in the population and the probability of exposure. Reduce any one of these components and risk is reduced commensurately.

Microbes propagate in every environment and survive on everything that we touch. Healthcare facilities have a ready supply of disease causing species easily transferred among patients and staff. Although organisms grow and survive for extended periods on receptive building surfaces, they become airborne through normal occupant traffic and activities such as vacuuming. Once airborne, the HVAC systems, makeup airshafts and elevator shafts move the microorganisms throughout the building. They settle on other receptive surfaces and are transported from room to room and person-to-person.

A Comparison of Reactive Strategies

Historically, there has been an unending array of products, cleaners, chemicals, devices, strategies, and methods available to combat microbial problems from mildew to pathogenic bacteria as follows:

  • Housekeeping procedures: Housekeeping professionals regularly remove any visible growth and soil. Detergent/sanitizer/disinfectant products are effective short-term tools but present their own toxicity problems. Bacteria and other resident microbes adapt to conventional sanitizers and biocides, and many develop immunity.
  • Engineering procedures: Selection, operation, modification, and maintenance of HVAC systems permits better temperature and humidity control and better filtration. This does not eliminate growth sources. And, as we adjust our indoor environments for the comfort of occupants, we also create ideal habitats for a large variety of microorganisms.
  • Industrial hygiene procedures: Industrial hygienists and health professionals have concentrated on identifying and removing and/or containing sources of pollutants (chemicals) and routes of pollutant transmission. This focus has created an army of consultants and a very lucrative testing industry. Unfortunately, in many instances, a specific cause is never identified.

Cleaning Versus Preventative Methods

Many of the environments within health care settings, such as doorknobs, light switches and other high-touch surfaces, are cleaned and disinfected frequently with a variety of disinfection chemicals. Others are either simply not cleaned at all (such as ceilings, wall cavities and many out-of-sight areas) or are cleaned less often (such as computer keyboards, telephone buttons and elevator controls). Our ability to control the growth and survival of microbes - and reduce exposure - has become dependent in part upon the cleaners and disinfectants that we use, both how they work and how often they are used.

Most conventional cleaners must be applied to and then diffuse or leach from the treated surface and be consumed by the microorganism to be effective. After application, the protection vanished since the concentration of the active ingredient quickly becomes diluted below effective levels. Under these conditions, microorganisms have the ability to adapt or build up a tolerance to these particular antimicrobials. Highly resistant strains can develop that are immune to what was once an effective dose.

In 1969, Dow Corning Corporation discovered a unique way to attach a biocidal agent permanently and directly to surfaces such that it does not create a zone of inhibition and does not dissipate over time. It remains chemically attached to the surface on which it is applied and functions by interrupting the organism's delicate cell membrane. This prevents microorganisms from carrying on vital life processes. This antimicrobial acts on contact with organisms and can do so repeatedly. Since a bound antimicrobial is fixed to the surface, it continually operates at full strength. This means the genetic adaptation process, which is an inherent problem with conventional antimicrobials, cannot and does not occur.

For the very first time, Dow Corning's technology has made it possible to actually control the growth and survival of mould, bacteria and other microorganisms on any treated surface - even after repeated cleanings and extended use. This unique technology, known as the AEGIS Antimicrobial, is widely used and is known for its long-term effecitiveness in the control of microbial contamination in indoor environments. Case histories and peer review publications show how this material, used as part of a total IEQ program, provides relief and protection from indoor microbial problems.