In 2010 Xavier University researcher
Dr. Edmond Hooker began research delving into a possible link between hospital beds and healthcare acquired infections (HAIs).
It immediately became apparent that hospital mattresses have been frequently linked to outbreaks of HAI;s. Hospital mattresses are soft porous surfaces.
They are designed to allow moisture to move away from the patient to prevent skin breakdown and bedsores. However, this design makes it impossible for the mattress surface to be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected using currently available cleaning products.
Dr. Hooker’s first line of scientific inquiry was to culture the surfaces of mattresses that had been “terminally” cleaned and were ready for the next patient. In 2011, the Xavier team showed that these mattresses were still contaminated with pathogenic bacteria despite having been cleaned.
Again in 2012, while investigating the use of a launderable mattress barrier cover,
Dr. Hooker showed that mattresses cleaned using traditional hospital methods were still contaminated with pathogenic bacteria.
Prior research demonstrated that patients who are placed in a bed where the previous patient had Clostridium difficile (C. diff) and/or other bacterial infections are at an increased risk of acquiring those infections.
In 2015, researchers from Xavier University published the results of a landmark study. It demonstrated that, by using the launderable mattress barrier cover in two long-term acute care hospitals (treating extremely ill patients), they could decrease the number of patients who became infected with C. diff by 50%, even when the beds of C. diff patients had been cleaned using bleach.
Another recent study, just published in JAMA, demonstrated that hospital beds are the vector for transmission of C. diff even from asymptomatic patients who had occupied the same bed and received antibiotics during their hospital stay.
It is clear that the hospital environment, especially the hospital bed, is a major vector in the transmission of C. diff and many other bacteria that cause HAIs.
Healthcare providers must find ways to ensure that hospital mattresses are cleaned and disinfected properly between patients, and that additional non-chemical measures are taken, if available, to protect patients.
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