Disinfectants and Superbugs

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Compass One Healthcare

Disinfectants and Superbugs

By Rich Feczko, Director of Systems, Standards, Innovation & Global Support

Superbugs are the new villain in our fight against infections acquired during hospital stays.

During the past 10-15 years, there’s been an increase in this new threat to patient safety. According to the Centers for Disease Control, each year superbugs infect more than two million people and kill at least 23,000 people nationwide.


What are Superbugs?

Superbugs are viral infections caused by bacteria that are resistant to common antibiotics. Since the inception of antibiotics, the bacteria they treat have been adapting and changing in order to build up resistance. These superbugs are also known as multi-drug resistant organisms (MDRO).

In our quest to clean hundreds of hospitals every day, we work meticulously to prevent the spread of germs that won’t spread these superbugs. The most common superbugs working their way through US hospitals include Clostridium difficile, also known as C. diff, and MRSA, which stands for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus.

Most people that get a C. diff infection are getting medical care and taking antibiotics. While antibiotics may cure the bacteria making you sick, they can also knock out the healthy bacteria in your digestive tract. Then C. diff takes over. MRSA most often infects people after surgery and can’t be treated with penicillin. It can infect a wound and spread to surrounding tissues and your blood.

In addition to causing human sickness, these infections cost hospitals a lot of money to treat. C diff is one of the five major healthcare associated infections (HAIs) that cost US hospitals $9.8 billion annually.

Countering the Superbug

High-touch surfaces in a patient’s room – such as bed rails and toilet seats – may contribute to the spread of disease and potential infection by contaminating the hands, gloves, uniforms, gowns and equipment of healthcare workers. Several of these pathogens, including MRSA and C. diff, spores, can survive under certain conditions for four to five months or more.

To fend off the spread of superbugs, Crothall has developed a comprehensive strategy. Our process for identifying the threat and treating it targets all surfaces in the patient’s room and disinfecting with the proper solutions.


Here’s a quick rundown of our approach:

The Right Cleaning Process

Numerous clinical studies indicate disinfection cleaning in hospitals is not as thorough as it should be. We go beyond basic cleaning to disinfect surfaces and interrupt the transmission of these microorganisms. All high-touch surfaces in patient rooms are cleaned and disinfected. They include:

Light switches, sink faucets, restroom door handles; toilet and flusher; bed handrails, bedside tables, shower handle and rail; telephone; remote control/call button and overhead table.

The Right Products

We’ve developed a strategic relationship with several products manufacturers to identify the best product to fit each threat. On a daily basis, it means we use one-step, EPA-registered hospital disinfectants for cleaning and disinfecting high-touch surfaces and CDC-recommended Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered disinfectants that kill C. diff spores.

For example, Clorox Healthcare is one of our strategic partners. Multiple studies have demonstrated that bleach disinfectants can reduce C. diff transmission in a hospital setting.

Not long ago, Beth Israel Medical Center’s Dr. Brian Koll spearheaded a hospital collaborative involving 47 New York hospitals that used Clorox bleach as disinfectant in a daily basis. He found that 80 percent of the hospitals reported a reduction in C. diff. Further, we’ve also found effective results with non-bleach based sporicidals (our preferred solution is Perisept) as well as appropriate hydrogen peroxide solutions provided by Diversey, one of our product partners.


The Right Technology

In high-risk situations, our cleaning and disinfecting practices need assistance. The CDC recognizes ultraviolet (UV) radiation kills bacterial spores in C. diff, and its application will destroy airborne organisms or inactive microorganisms on surfaces.

Crothall has a strategic partnership with Surfacide®, an automatic disinfection system that uses shortwave ultraviolet (UV-C) light to destroy C. diff, MRSA, and other drug-resistant pathogens. It uses a triple-emitter array to eliminate “shadows” – surfaces UV light cannot reach – and cut disinfection time.

Back in 2015, Crothall acquired a Surfacide® triple emitter system for Jersey Shore University Medical Center to fight the medical intensive care unit’s few reported infections. In four months, the hospital went from a handful of healthcare associated infections (HAIs) to none at all. The results were so convincing that Meridian bought six sets of the triple-emitters for their five hospitals.”

Finally, while numerous hospitals use UV-C technology to disinfect their facilities, we are also exploring the validity of new electrostatic spray technology. We’re in the process of gathering data to make sure it works, that it’s safe for the environment and patients.

Tips for Consumers

While most of these superbugs are contracted within a hospital, individuals can take these steps to prevent antibiotic resistance: 

  • Disinfect high use “home” surfaces particularly in restrooms/kitchens
  • Use antibiotics as directed and only when needed
  • Complete the full treatment course, even if you feel better
  • Don’t share antibiotics with others
  • Don’t use leftover prescriptions
  • Maintain a diligent focus on hand hygiene.

Patient safety will always be our top priority and preventing infections – and the spread of superbugs -- is a daily battle that we are intent on winning. By continuing to invest in people and processes, working with clients and product manufacturers, I believe it’s one we can win.

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Written by: Rich Feczko