Study suggests inadequate hand hygiene practice

July 1, 2013, University of Otago

(Medical Xpress)—Gloves used commonly in general hospital wards throughout New Zealand are frequently contaminated with bacteria before coming into contact with patients, with poor glove box design and inadequate hand washing by hospital staff the likely culprits, a new University of Otago study has found.

The Otago researchers, whose study was published Sunday 30 June, 4pm NZT in the Australasian Medical Journal, tested non-sterile disposable gloves, finding they more than live up to their name.

Poor hand hygiene by hospital staff, coupled with a flaw in the design of the boxes, are strongly suspected as causes of the contamination by different kinds of , including faecal bacteria.

The bacteria involved are responsible for some of the nosocomial (hospital-acquired) infections that are acquired by people admitted to hospital. These potentially are known to cost New Zealand health budgets around $136 million a year.

Lead author Dr Heather Brooks from the Department of Microbiology and Immunology says she and collaborators Dr Jon Cornwall from the Department of Anatomy, Masters student Kim Hughes and Professor Jean-Claude Theis (Department of Surgical Sciences), assessed whether the non-sterile gloves were capable of transferring potential disease-causing bacteria in a large hospital ward.

"We wanted to find out whether gloves used every day for procedures such as removing drains, catheters or removing dressings from wounds, could be a vehicle for transmission of bugs around the ward," says Dr Brooks.

"We wanted to find out how 'non-sterile', non-sterile actually is."

The World Health Organization guidelines say proper hand hygiene must be carried out before gloves are retrieved from boxes, often located on walls in wards. However, the researchers found that hand hygiene must have been inadequate after they found several different kinds of bacteria after testing unused gloves in boxes located in one large general ward at Dunedin Hospital.

Dr Cornwall says that effective is a basic protective concept that has been known for a long time. He was hopeful the study would lead to a return to basics in hospitals.

"It seems there is a lot of emphasis on protecting healthcare staff from the patient, but perhaps not enough effort going into protecting the patient from the healthcare staff and potential cross-transmission of bugs," he says.

Kim Hughes, who tested 10 boxes of gloves and 38 glove samples (each sample containing three gloves) from the hospital ward, found the pathogens on the unused gloves, including a small number of faecal organisms.

"I was very surprised to see so many bacteria and different types, including pathogens," she says.

Dr Brooks believes the gloves become contaminated when medical staff search in the box for new gloves and their hands come into contact with the ones that are not selected.

Failure to properly wash their hands prior to accessing the glove boxes most likely accounted for the presence of faecal bacteria on the gloves. Reducing the contamination likely requires improved and proper technique, and a design change in the box that reduces the size of the hole through which the gloves are retrieved, allowing the gloves to come out more easily without the need for reaching into the box to access new gloves.

"The findings highlight adherence to hand washing guidelines, common glove retrieval practice, and glove-box design as targets for decreasing bacteria transmission via on hospital wards," the study concludes.

Dr Brooks says the researchers believe it is highly likely that these results would be replicated in other general wards in other hospitals should tests be carried out.

The study backs up previous international studies which have also found that hand-washing compliance by health professionals is generally poor.

Explore further: Latex gloves lead to lax hand hygiene in hospitals, study finds

Related Stories

Latex gloves lead to lax hand hygiene in hospitals, study finds

November 3, 2011
Healthcare workers who wear gloves while treating patients are much less likely to clean their hands before and after patient contact, according to a study published in the December issue of Infection Control and Hospital ...

Hand me a towel, it's more hygienic

June 5, 2013
(Medical Xpress)—Next time you wash your hands, it is worth remembering that it is more hygienic to dry your hands using paper towels than electric air dryers, according to a QUT-led study.

Double gloving prevents exposure to pathogens in OR

March 7, 2012
(HealthDay) -- Double gloving during surgery reduces the risk for transmission of bloodborne pathogens to medical personnel as well as minimizing the transfer of health care-associated infections to patients, according to ...

Study reports predictors of poor hand hygiene in an emergency department

October 3, 2011
Researchers studying hand hygiene of healthcare workers in the emergency department found certain care situations, including bed location and type of healthcare worker performing care, resulted in poorer hand hygiene practice. ...

Prevent MRSA in horse hospitals

June 3, 2013
Bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics have become a serious threat to humans and animals. Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is an example of such a bacterium. MRSA infections in horses are difficult ...

Recommended for you

Women run faster after taking newly developed supplement, study finds

January 19, 2018
A new study found that women who took a specially prepared blend of minerals and nutrients for a month saw their 3-mile run times drop by almost a minute.

Americans are getting more sleep

January 19, 2018
Although more than one in three Americans still don't get enough sleep, a new analysis shows first signs of success in the fight for more shut eye. According to data from 181,335 respondents aged 15 and older who participated ...

Wine is good for you—to a point

January 18, 2018
The Mediterranean diet has become synonymous with healthy eating, but there's one thing in it that stands out: It's cool to drink wine.

Sleep better, lose weight?

January 17, 2018
(HealthDay)—Sleeplessness could cost you when it's time to stand on your bathroom scale, a new British study suggests.

Who uses phone apps to track sleep habits? Mostly the healthy and wealthy in US

January 16, 2018
The profile of most Americans who use popular mobile phone apps that track sleep habits is that they are relatively affluent, claim to eat well, and say they are in good health, even if some of them tend to smoke.

Improvements in mortality rates are slowed by rise in obesity in the United States

January 15, 2018
With countless medical advances and efforts to curb smoking, one might expect that life expectancy in the United States would improve. Yet according to recent studies, there's been a reduction in the rate of improvement in ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.