Where the wild things are

Carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE) are a major threat to public health worldwide and Israel is among the countries with the highest rates of these pathogens. A concerted campaign has done a good job of bringing the national outbreak under control, but problems persist1. An Israeli hospital investigated the extent of environmental contamination with CRE in the vicinity of 34 CRE-carriers using two different sampling methods; contact plates and swabs (with or without enrichment). Pilot sampling was performed to identify the five sites that were most likely to be contaminated (pillow, crotch and leg area on the bed, personal bedside table and infusion pump). To investigate the effect of cleaning on the recovery of CRE, the five sites were sampled at two different times; 4 and 24 hr after rooms were cleaned and patient cloths and sheets were changed.


The study detected CRE in the surrounding environment of most (88%) of the patients sampled, showing that a high proportion of carriers shed these pathogens into their environment which can then be transmitted. Recovery was highest in the carrier’s immediate environment with the patient bed being the most contaminated. Not surprisingly, recovery of CRE from the environment was reduced when sampling was done 4 hr after cleaning compared to 24 hr after cleaning (21% of sites contaminated vs 27%). However these results also highlight the speed by which the patient environment is re-contaminated with CRE after cleaning. The study also showed that the choice of the detection method is also important and reported that contact plates were more efficient at recovering CRE than swabs even with enrichment broth.

The high rate of recovery of CRE from the environment in this study is surprising. Hence, hospitals with CRE-carriers should expect the environment in the vicinity of these patients to be contaminated. Regular and thorough cleaning of the patient environment and equipment should be an integral part of the hospital’s infection control strategy to reduce the spread of these pathogens.

Article citation:

Lerner A, Adler A, Abu-Hanna Jet al.Environmental contaminationby carbapenem-resistantenterobacteriaceae. J Clin Microbiol 2013;51:177-81.


1.       Schwaber MJ, Lev B, Israeli Aet al. Containment of a country-wide outbreak of carbapenem-resistant Klebsiella pneumoniae in Israeli hospitals via a nationally implemented intervention. Clin Infect Dis 2011; 52: 848-855.

Do biofilms on dry hospital surfaces change how we think about hospital disinfection?

An important paper published in the Journal of Hospital Infection has identified biofilms on dry hospital surfaces. Biofilms are known to be important in several areas of medicine including indwelling medical devices and endoscope tubing, usually associated with surface-water interfaces. However, it was unclear whether biofilms formed on dry hospital surfaces. The study by Vickery et al. ‘destructively sampled’ several hospital surfaces after cleaning and disinfection using bleach (i.e. cut the materials out of the hospital environment and took them to the lab for analysis). Scanning electron microscopy was used to examine the surfaces for biofilms, which were identified on 5/6 surfaces: a curtain, a blind cord, a plastic door, a wash basin and a reagent bucket. Furthermore, MRSA was identified in the biofilm on three of the surfaces.


Could it be that we have missed or underestimated the importance of biofilms on dry hospital surfaces? Biofilms could explain why vegetative bacteria can survive on dry hospital surfaces for so long, be part of the reason why they are so difficult to remove or inactivate using disinfectants (bacteria in biofilms can be 1000x more difficult to kill than corresponding planktonic bacteria) and explain to some degree the difficulty in recovering environmental pathogens by surface sampling.

Biofilms are clearly not the only reason for failures in hospital disinfection given the difficulty in achieving adequate distribution and contact time using manual methods, but these findings may have implications for infection control practices within hospitals and on the choice of the appropriate disinfectants used to decontaminate surfaces.

Article citation: Vickery K, Deva A, Jacombs A, Allan J, Valente P, Gosbell IB. Presence of biofilm containing viable multiresistant organisms despite terminal cleaning on clinical surfaces in an intensive care unit. J Hosp Infect 2012; 80: 52-55.

Image courtesy of the Lewis Lab at Northeastern University. Image created by Anthony D’Onofrio, William H. Fowle, Eric J. Stewart and Kim Lewis