- Privacy curtains in hospitals can become breeding grounds for bacteria
- Curtains pose a high risk for cross-contamination
- Researchers took samples from areas where people hold curtains
A recent study suggests that privacy curtains in hospitals can become breeding grounds for resistant bacteria, thus posing a threat to patient safety. The study tracked the contamination rate of ten freshly laundered privacy curtains in the Regional Burns/Plastics Unit of the Health Services Center in Winnipeg, Canada.
While the curtains had minimal contamination when they were first hung, the curtains that were hung in patient rooms became increasingly contaminated over time. And by day 14, 87.5 per cent of the curtains tested positive for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), a pathogen associated with significant morbidity and mortality. In contrast, control curtains that were not placed in patient rooms stayed clean the entire 21 days.
None of the rooms where the curtains were placed was occupied by patients with MRSA. Four curtains were placed in a four-bedroom; four were placed in two double rooms, and two controls were placed in areas without direct patient or caregiver contact. Researchers took samples from areas where people hold curtains, suggesting that the increasing contamination resulted from direct contact.
Kevin Shek, lead author of the study said, "We know that privacy curtains pose a high risk for cross-contamination because they are frequently touched but infrequently changed. The high rate of contamination that we saw by the fourteenth day may represent an opportune time to intervene, either by cleaning or replacing the curtains."
By day 21, almost all curtains exceeded 2.5 CFU/cm, the requirement for food processing equipment cleanliness in some locations, such as the United Kingdom.
The study authors acknowledged the small sample size of this pilot study and recommend additional research to understand the clinical consequences of contaminated curtains.
The findings appeared in the American Journal of Infection Control.