The most dangerous germs in the hospital may be the ones you bring in with you, according to a new study.
US researchers from the University of Chicago in Illinois took swabs from more than 250 patients when they arrived at hospital for treatment. Swabs were also taken from the patients’ immediate environment and from the nurses and doctors with whom they interacted.
Around 20 of the patients taking part in the study contracted a healthcare-acquired infection during their stay. The research team applied statistical methods to determine those factors that had influenced the patients’ microbial make-up during their stay.
Swabs of the patients’ rooms and healthcare staff failed to turn up the bacteria responsible for these infections. This suggests that the infections were not acquired at hospital at all, according to the study’s leader microbial ecologist Jack Gilbert. “The most likely explanation is that the patients already had those bacteria when they were admitted,” he said.
The study concluded that the microbes in hospital rooms may be no more dangerous than those in patients’ own homes. “If this is true it is going to be a paradigm shift in how we think of hospital-acquired infections,” says Gilbert.
He claims it is almost impossible to completely sterilise a room and adds that most hospitals are already being relatively successful at keeping germs at bay.
“Rather than focusing on ever more potent sterilisation efforts, more resources should be spent on treating people with probiotics and antibiotics before they enter a hospital when possible,” he said.