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Clinical detergent wet wipes spread hospital 'superbugs'


Clinical detergent wet wipes used in hospitals across the UK show “huge variability” in their ability to eliminate healthcare-associated infections, according to a study led by Cardiff University.

Researchers also found that in every instance the wipes actually spread the infections from one surface to another.

The majority of UK infection control policies support the use of detergent-based products for routine cleaning in hospitals, with detergent wet wipes increasingly being used.

“Hospital staff must be educated to ensure these products are used properly”

Jean-Yves Maillard

But until now, there has been no information about the ability of clinical detergent wet wipes to remove disease-causing bacteria from these surfaces without spreading them, said the researchers.

The Cardiff team tested seven commercially available detergent wipes on three of the most common hospital infections, which including MRSA, Clostridium difficile and Acinetobacter baumannii.

How effectively the clinical wipes were able to eliminate superbug spores was gauged using a protocol based on the European standard method for chemical disinfectants.

The research team found the wipes were very inconsistent in their ability to remove spores of the bacteria from hospital surfaces following a wiping procedure that lasted 10 seconds.

In addition, all wipes tested repeatedly spread significant amounts of bacteria over three consecutive surfaces.

Study author Professor Jean-Yves Maillard, from the university’s School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Science, said: “This is the first report on the effectiveness of the most used detergent wipes in hospitals and what we’ve found is that in all too many cases they are not up to the job, with results showing huge variability.

“Our tests show that although the detergent wipes succeed in removing superbugs, they immediately transfer them when the wipe is used on a different surface,” he added.

“Wet wipes are generally good products, but the efficacy of these products can be improved,” he said. “Hospital staff must be educated to ensure these products are used properly and will not cause an unnecessary risk to staff and patients – a single wipe should not be used on multiple surfaces.”

The research has been published online in the American Journal of Infection Control.


Readers' comments (7)

  • When I was training, in the dark ages, before such things were invented, we used a single, disposable swab or cloth, swept across the surface, one way, and then used another for the next sweep - even if it was an adjacent sweep further down the same surface. Probably slower and costlier. But that method was designed to avoid moving the bugs from one place to another. Are staff really using a single wipe on more than one surface? Does nobody understand the concept of cross-contamination? Or cross-infection, as we used to call it.

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  • Perhaps a spray would be better?.

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  • Misleading headline....

    It's not the wipes, it's the person using them.

    Why would anyone clean multiple surfaces using the same wipe(s)?

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  • My training was also in the dark ages… we were taught to think of the invisible bugs as ink which would spread everywhere if we didn't confine it.
    Good teaching but unfortunately wouldn't work now because inkwells and spilt ink not the norm.

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  • I agree, misleading headline.....

    This would imply that Infection control wipes are ineffective.... when only detergent wipes were tested.

    Detergent wipes are not expected to kill microbes!!

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  • Detergent wipes are perfectly adequate substitute for soap and water for cleaning surfaces but they do need to be used correctly and for single use not multiple surfaces. They are also only a first line of cleaning. In high risk areas such as a room where a patient has been nursed with C Diff should also be disinfected as well as cleaned.

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  • As with all things, in the wrong hands, things tend to go array. Added to this though is the increased resistance of micro organisms to disinfection solutions which makes it more complex. Alcohol and c diff. is bad news as it becomes more resistant. Biofilms are yet another issue. Most disinfectants do not penetrate biofilms.

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