Jeff Herman
Dec 15, 2011

How new hygiene technology and education is preventing hospital infections

Poor hygiene in a hospital has severe consequences and is a major cause of hospital-acquired infections; for this reason, many hospitals have stringent hygiene policies. In response, Medline has recently launched a New Interactive Hand Hygiene Training Program  to teach doctors and other healthcare personnel how to properly wash their hands, not just after they use the restroom, but also whenever they enter a new area of the hospital, visit any new patient, or touch any surface that might be considered unclean.


However, even the most modern and clean hospital is nearly impossible to completely sterilize, given the common presence of microbes that rapidly adapt to their surroundings.  Even wearing hospital scrubs outside in the nearby community can become a contaminating factor.


Also, with the relatively recent appearance of virile “super-bugs,” microbes that are resistant to most modern medical and disinfectant techniques, researchers are tenaciously trying to develop effective hospital sterilization techniques. On December 9th, 2011, a press release, New disinfection technique could revolutionize hospital room cleaning, describes one such technique that may greatly reduce hospital acquired infections. 


Researchers at Queen’s University, with the company Medizone, developed a proprietary ozone and hydrogen peroxide vapor gas mixture which can safely and rapidly sterilize medical equipment and everything that is in a hospital room. It works by inducing the production of Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) in mold, bacteria and viruses.  ROS are molecules that are a normal part of cell metabolism; however, in large quantities, these molecules can become highly toxic in mold, bacteria and viruses.  Using reactive oxygen species is actually similar to how our own immune system combats microbial invaders within our bodies. Ozone and hydrogen peroxide is also toxic to humans, but only in much larger quantities. The gas dissipates within an hour of being sprayed in the room, leaving nothing but a pleasant clean smell.


Scientists discovered another effective hospital cleaning technique earlier this year when they used copper to successfully kill Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). This common infection is nearly impervious to many antibiotics that conventionally treat staph infections and it can lead to severe health complications in patients.  Removing MRSA from a hospital was just as challenging as treating it until scientists showed that copper can rapidly kill MRSA during a March 2011 live webcast. Copper is toxic and can’t be aerosolized as a cleaning agent; however, by adopting the use of copper counters, and copper steel wool sponges, perhaps MRSA can be completely eradicated from hospitals.


The adoption of more stringent hospital-wide education, along with more innovative and safe cleaning techniques, is absolutely necessary not only to quell the incidence of hospital-acquired infections, but also to eradicate the “super-bugs” that have begun making healthcare extremely difficult. Additionally, despite a hospital's best efforts to keep bacteria within its walls, patients and staff can unwittingly carry disease into the community. Thus, hygiene education of the general public and the millions of family members that visit patients in the hospital each year is also necessary.


If a hospital is more stringent about also requiring the general public to wash and/or disinfect their hands when entering or leaving a room, the incidence of infection could likely go down even further.  Even better, along with new sterilization techniques, if hospitals require all visiting family members and hospital personnel to don sterilized scrubs, we might one day eradicate hospital infections all together.