A study into hospital hygiene has found higher levels of infectious pathogens in water from faucet taps with aerators compared to water from deeper in the plumbing system. This means that poor practices are causing contamination around the taps.
The major concern with the finding is that contaminated water poses an increased risk for infection in patients who are sick and have weak immune systems. Worse still, many of the bacteria isolated are antibiotic resistant.
For the study, researchers from the University of Genova in Italy studied cold and hot water samples at two tertiary care hospitals for a year from faucets used by healthcare professionals for handwashing, surgical washing, and washing of medical equipment. The researchers found the total microbial load was up to 10 times greater when aerators were in place than after they had been sterilized. The findings mirror some parallel research undertaken by Tim Sandle.
The reason for the high contamination levels was due to chlorine levels being too low and hot water temperatures that were below the minimal temperature needed to prevent the growth of pathogens like Legionella.
It should be noted at this point that the evidence relates to Italian hospitals, although the practices in keeping sinks and taps clean are not dissimilar from the rest of Europe.
The findings have been published in the journal Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology. The research is headed “The Impact of Aerator on Water Contamination by Emerging Gram-Negative Opportunists in At-Risk Hospital Departments.”
The results mirror data presented by Tim Sandle. In a recent paper, Sandle pinpointed areas of concern as: “Modes of transmission include direct contact, such as a hydrotherapy pool; ingestion of water, such as consuming contaminated ice; indirect contact transmission, including from contaminated hands, devices, equipment, surfaces and so forth; the inhalation of aerosols dispersed from water sources, including from fountains, showers, cooling towers, air conditioning units; and the aspiration of contaminated water.”