Grant Awarded to Research Proper Disinfection Procedures

William Hubble, Saint Louis University Department of Medical Imaging and Radiation Therapeutics
William Hubble, M.A.

The Doisy College of Health Sciences is pleased to announce a $10,000 grant from the American Society of Radiologic Technologists Education and Research Foundation. The grant titled “Investigating the Effectiveness of Current Disinfection Practices on Medical Equipment in a Radiology Department” will examine the effectiveness of current disinfection practices performed at local hospitals.

Under the primary investigation of William L. Hubble, M.A., Chair of and Associate Professor in the Department of Medical Imaging and Radiation Therapeutics and co-investigators James A. Turner, Instructor and Clinical Coordinator in the Department of Medical Imaging and Radiation Therapeutics and Rita Heuertz, Ph.D., Professor of Clinical Laboratory Science, the grant will allow investigators to identify bacteria growing on a variety of hospital surfaces.

It is understood that patients are exposed to bacteria in healthcare settings. While most of the bacteria are nonpathogenic and not considered harmful to individuals this is not the case for immunocompromised patients. Patients with HIV/AIDS, cancer patients being treated with chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy, elderly or very young patients may develop complications when exposed to the nonpathogenic bacteria. Due to the abundance of bacteria found in healthcare facilities, disinfection is an important process that should be executed with care and evaluated periodically to improve patient outcomes. Exposure to certain bacteria strains can have serious consequences. A prime example is the multi-drug resistant Staphylococcus aureus that was initially developed in hospitals and is known to cause skin infections, respiratory disease and food poisoning.

Hospital cleaning

Radiology departments in hospitals receive a wide range of patients, this increases risk factors associated with bacteria exposure. In addition, the number of nuclear medicine procedures have increased by 10-fold since 1950. In 2006, 377 million diagnostic and interventional radiologic procedures were conducted in the United States. The increased examination rate creates more difficulties in adequate disinfection.

A pilot study was conducted in the radiology department of a single hospital located in the inner city of a metropolitan area to test for potentially harmful infectious organisms on a variety of surfaces to include imaging equipment, equipment controls and touchscreens, and desktop computers. Of the 38 samples collected, 100 percent demonstrated microbial growth. Furthermore, 32 of the 38 samples contained colonies characterized as Staphylococcus. Due to monetary constraints it was not determined whether these colonies contained drug-resistant strains such as Staphylococcus aureus.

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