Jet-air dryers should not be used in hospital toilets

University of Leeds | September 2018 | Jet-air dryers should not be used in hospital toilets

A new study from researchers at Leeds University and Leeds Teaching Hospital Trust investigated whether the way people dried their hands (using paper towels or jet-air dryers) has an impact on the spread of bacteria. 

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The academics argue that official guidance about how to prevent bacterial contamination in hospital buildings needs to be strengthened. Currently, the official Department of Health guidance states that air dryers can be placed in toilets in the public areas of a hospital but not in clinical areas: but this due to the noise they create rather than due to any potential  risks they pose for cross contamination (via University of Leeds).

Over 12 weeks at three hospitals in the UK, Italy and France levels of bacterial contamination from two toilets at each hospital were measured, allowing comparisons to be made when either paper towels or jet-air dryers were in use. Samples were taken from the floors, air and surfaces in each of the toilets.

The researchers found that across the three hospitals, bacterial counts were significantly higher in the toilets on the days that jet-air dryers were in use.

Professor Wilcox, Professor of Medical Microbiology at the University of Leeds supervised the study. He said:

“We found multiple examples of greater bacterial contamination on surfaces, including by faecal and antibiotic-resistant bacteria, when jet-air dryers rather than paper towels were in use. Choice of hand drying method affects how likely microbes can spread, and so possibly the risk of infection.” (Source: University of Leeds)

The study has been published in The Journal of Hospital Infection. 

Summary

Background

Hand hygiene is a fundamental component of infection prevention, but few studies have examined whether hand-drying method affects the risk of dissemination of potential pathogens.

Aim

To perform a multi-centre, internal-crossover study comparing bacterial contamination levels in washrooms with hand-drying by either paper towels (PT) or jet air dryer (JAD; Dyson).

Methods

A total of 120 sampling sessions occurred over 12 weeks in each of three hospitals (UK, France, Italy). Bacteria were cultured from air, multiple surfaces, and dust. Washroom footfall (patients/visitors/staff) was monitored externally.

Findings

Footfall was nine times higher in UK washrooms. Bacterial contamination was lower in PT versus JAD washrooms; contamination was similar in France and the UK, but markedly lower in Italian washrooms. Total bacterial recovery was significantly greater from JAD versus PT dispenser surfaces at all sites (median: 100–300 vs 0–10 cfu; all P < 0.0001). In the UK and France, significantly more bacteria were recovered from JAD washroom floors. UK meticillin-susceptible Staphylococcus aureus recovery was three times more frequent and six-fold higher for JAD vs PT surfaces. UK meticillin-resistant S. aureus recovery was three times more frequent from JAD versus PT surfaces or floors. Significantly more enterococci and extended-spectrum β-lactamase (ESBL)-producing bacteria were recovered from UK JAD versus PT washroom floors. In France, ESBL-producing bacteria were recovered from dust twice as often during JAD versus PT use.

Conclusion

Multiple examples of significant differences in surface bacterial contamination, including by faecal and antibiotic-resistant bacteria, were observed, with higher levels in JAD versus PT washrooms. Hand-drying method affects the risk of (airborne) dissemination of bacteria in real-world settings.

 

The full article can be downloaded from the Journal of Hospital Infection  

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