Bacteria Can Persist on Gloves, Transfer to Surfaces

Neil Osterweil

June 19, 2016

BOSTON — Acinetobacter baumannii, a moisture-loving bug that is a common cause of opportunistic infections in hospitals, including ventilator-associated pneumonia, can easily be transferred from examination gloves to plastic surfaces, according to the results of a new study.

A baumannii seems to have a particular affinity for exam gloves and polypropylene plastics, report Kazue Fujita, MD, from Nippon Medical School in Bunkyo, Japan, and colleagues.

Although gowns and gloves protect healthcare workers and patients from transmission of infectious organisms, failure to remove or change contaminated gloves increases the likelihood of transmission, especially when microorganisms are hardy enough to survive on hospital surfaces, Dr Fujita added.

"Improving glove use compliance will decrease the risk of healthcare-associated infections. It is also important to establish a basis for a risk assessment and a management approach to each [type of] bacteria," she said at a briefing here at the American Society for Microbiology (ASM) Microbe 2016.

Dr Fujita and colleagues conducted a study to see how many and what types of common bacteria could be transmitted from contaminated gloves to hospital surfaces.

They inoculated nitrile examination gloves with bacteria commonly found in healthcare-associated infections, including multidrug-resistant strains of Escherichia coli, Klebsiella pneumonia, A baumannii, and Pseudomonas aeruginosa.

The gloves were inoculated with 105, 103, and 10 colony forming units/10 μL of each microorganism. The contaminated gloves were then touched to a sterilized polypropylene surface immediately, at 30 seconds, and at 3 minutes (after the glove's surface had completely dried). The investigators then quantified the number of viable bacteria on the polypropylene surface.

From 5% to 10% of all bacteria from the inoculated gloves was transmitted to the polypropylene surface immediately after inoculation. However, all tested microorganisms except A baumannii decreased in a dose- and time-dependent fashion, and could not be detected on the polypropylene surface 3 minutes after inoculation.

The persistent A baumannii isolates included both a drug-sensitive and a multidrug-resistant strain.

The investigators say that the ease of transmission they observed may explain the emergence of multidrug-resistant A baumannii. Risk factors for transmission of these strains included wound manipulation and artificial airways. The little bugs are also durable, and have been isolated from bed rails up to 9 days after an infected patient was discharged, Dr Kazue reported.

The only thing that bacteria love more than people is plastic. Dr Michael Schmidt

The study shows that "the only thing that bacteria love more than people is plastic," said Michael Schmidt, PhD, from the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, who was not involved in the study.

"The findings of this study, while not unanticipated, are significant in that they provide some of the first data on the significant risk that gloves represent to healthcare," he told Medscape Medical News.

"One of the things not in the study that people should be aware about is that many of the other workers in the hospital, principally the environmental services team, don't often change their gloves."

The study was supported by Bunkyo Gakuin University and the Nippon Medical School. The investigators and Dr Schmidt have disclosed no relevant financial relationships.

American Society for Microbiology (ASM) Microbe 2016: Abstract 333. Presented June 19, 2016.


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