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Drain cover prevents spread of pathogens from hospital sinks

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September 9, 2018

Researchers developed a novel plastic drain cover that they said could reduce the dissemination of pathogens from contaminated hospital sinks.

“Sinks in health care facilities are an important reservoir for dissemination of multidrug-resistant gram-negative bacilli,” Curtis J. Donskey, MD, professor of medicine at Case Western Reserve University and infectious disease physician at the Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center, and colleagues wrote in Infection Control & Hospital Epidemiology. “Unfortunately, addressing sink contamination is challenging because sink drains provide a favorable environment for pathogen colonization and biofilm formation, but they are not amenable to cleaning and disinfection.”

According to a study published in 2017, multidrug-resistant bacteria can potentially spread from hospital sinks to patients. Researchers discovered that bacteria colonize in the elbows of sinks, spread and splatter to surrounding areas.

Researchers in the current study created a sink drain cover that would prevent running water from splashing the microorganisms up from the drain, into the sink and onto the counter. The cover, called Drain Armor, is a small piece of dome-shaped plastic that is placed over the drain and held in place with three suction cups. Researchers explained that the device would be for single-use only, meant to be placed upon patient admission and discarded, while wearing gloves, either weekly or when the patient is discharged. To test feasibility, Drain Armor covers were placed in 20 patient rooms of a medical intensive care unit for 2 weeks.

drain armor
Drain Armor can reduce the dissemination of pathogens, researchers said.
Source: Curtis J. Donskey

Researchers discovered the cover fit all types of sinks and did not reduce water outflow. The drain cover was also effective in preventing dispersal of fluorescent gel, which was used by researchers to test splatter to countertops or other nearby surfaces. Of the 74 sinks cultured in the study, 72 had gram-negative bacilli recovered from swabs inserted below the strainer and all control cultures collected after disinfection but before running water were negative. According to the authors, no dispersal of gram-negative bacilli occurred when water was run for 30 seconds with the drain cover on.

Donskey and colleagues said the drain covers — which are intended for single use during one admission — cost $5, or $260 per sink for the year if changed weekly. They said no personnel or patients reported any inconvenience caused by the drains.

“Many alternative approaches that have been used to control outbreaks related to sinks may be costly or labor intensive. Such inventions include changing sink designs, placing barriers between sinks and work areas, replacing drainage systems, use of devices to disinfect P-traps, and complete elimination of sinks,” they wrote.

The said their findings “suggest that the sink drain covers could provide a simple means to reduce dissemination of pathogens from contaminated sinks.” – by Caitlyn Stulpin

Disclosures: Donskey reports receiving research funding from Clorox, EcoLab, GOJO, Pfizer, Avery Dennison and Boehringer Laboratories. All other authors report no relevant financial disclosures.

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