Privacy curtains in hospital rooms can collect dangerous antibiotic-resistant bacteria, researchers report.
In a new study, investigators assessed the rate of bacterial contamination on 10 freshly laundered privacy curtains in the Regional Burns/Plastics Unit of the Health Services Center in Winnipeg, Canada.
Four curtains were placed in a four-bed room, four were placed in two double-rooms, and two in areas without direct patient or caregiver contact. The curtains were monitored for 21 days.
After being hung, the curtains in patient rooms became increasingly contaminated, and by the 14th day, 88 percent of them tested positive for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) bacteria, which poses a serious threat to patients.
None of the curtains had been placed in rooms occupied by patients with MRSA. The researchers took samples from areas where people hold curtains, suggesting that the increasing contamination was the result of direct contact.
Curtains that were not placed in patient rooms stayed clean the entire 21 days, according to the study published in the latest issue of the American Journal of Infection Control. The journal is published by the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC).
“We know that privacy curtains pose a high risk for cross-contamination because they are frequently touched but infrequently changed,” lead study author Kevin Shek said in an APIC news release.
“The high rate of contamination that we saw by the 14th day may represent an opportune time to intervene, either by cleaning or replacing the curtains,” he added.
APIC President Janet Haas said: “Keeping the patient’s environment clean is a critical component in preventing healthcare-associated infections. Because privacy curtains could be a mode of disease transmission, maintaining a schedule of regular cleaning offers another potential way to protect patients from harm while they are in our care.”