Patient privacy curtains in hospitals became increasingly contaminated with pathogens and most tested positive for MRSA after 21 days of being hung, according to findings published in the American Journal of Infection Control.
“Since hospital patient privacy curtains can harbor bacteria, are high-touch surfaces and are cleaned infrequently, they may be involved in pathogen transmission,” Kevin Shek, BSc, from the University of Manitoba, Canada, and colleagues wrote.
Shek and colleagues conducted a longitudinal, prospective, pilot study to determine the contamination rate of hospital privacy curtains in the Regional Burns/Plastics Unit of the Health Services Center in Canada.
The researchers assessed the cultures of 10 freshly laundered curtains, including eight test curtains surrounding patient beds and two controls in an unoccupied staff room, over 21 days for microbial contamination and the presence of MRSA. They tested the curtains near the edge hem where they were most likely to be touched.
Patient privacy curtains in hospitals became increasingly contaminated with pathogens and most tested positive for MRSA after 21 days of being hung.
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Test curtains had more microbial contamination (mean colony-forming units/cm² = 1.17) than control curtains (mean colony-forming units /cm² = 0.19) by day 3. Over time, contamination of the test curtains increased. The mean colony-forming units/cm² was 1.86 at day 17 and 5.11 at day 21.
One of the test curtains was positive for MRSA by day 10 and seven were positive by day 14. Conversely, control curtains remained clean for the entire duration of the study.
“The high rate of contamination that we saw by the 14th day may represent an opportune time to intervene, either by cleaning or replacing the curtains,” Shek said in a press release.
The researchers noted that none of the curtains were placed in rooms that were occupied by patients with MRSA.
“Keeping the patient’s environment clean is a critical component in preventing healthcare-associated infections,” Janet Haas, PhD, RN, president of the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology, said in the release. “Because privacy curtains could be a mode of disease transmission, maintaining a schedule of regular cleaning offers another potential way to protect patients from harm while they are in our care.” – by Alaina Tedesco
The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.