A mapping carried out at the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of the USP Hospital das Clínicas in Ribeirão Preto (SP) identified that most bacteria are resistant to daily cleaning and that the cell phone is one of the main sources of contamination in these environments.
The results of the study were published in an article in the British journal “Borders in Public Health” in August this year. According to researcher Lucas Ferreira Ribeiro, the group's goal is to alert health professionals about the importance of constantly reviewing hygiene protocols.
“Sometimes, contact with a particular patient and touching other surfaces within the ICU can create cross contamination within this environment. So there is a need to be vigilant and committed to proper hygiene, ”he says.
Research also highlights that antibiotic use is not the only factor that makes bacteria resistant. Using the same chemical on a daily basis also causes microorganisms – especially the potentially most worrying ones – to become adapted and it.
Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at USP Clinical Hospital in Ribeirão Preto – Photo: Antônio Luiz / EPTV
To map out microorganism communities, the group collected surface samples that should be cleaned daily, such as mattresses, beds, doorknobs, and respirators, on normal working days, without the nursing staff being advised.
Samples were also collected from the surfaces of computers, cell phones and medical records folders that were in the ICU, as well as the lab coats used by professionals. The collections occurred before and soon after daily cleaning with specific products.
“We observed that in the pediatric ICU there was a greater diversity of microorganisms and this may be related to the greater entry and exit of visitors. In both we find these microorganisms related to nosocomial infections, ”says Ribeiro.
Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (ICU) in Ribeirão Preto – Photo: Antônio Luiz / EPTV
The researcher points out that many bacteria can be in healthy visitors and do not generate any problems, but in ICU environment, especially pediatric, these microorganisms pose more risk due to the vulnerability of patients.
“Even after cleaning, there was no effective decrease in hospital-related bacteria. So, there is a need to revise these protocols, look for more efficient ones or even have rotation, not only for cleaning, but also for cleaning, ”he says.
The research used state-of-the-art genetic sequencing techniques that allow us to identify a larger number of genera and species of microorganisms, compared to current tests in which bacterial cultures are performed in the laboratory.
“It should be noted that no hospital is completely sterile. It is already known that the hospital has a fingerprint that is different in each environment, but everyone shares a microbiota ”, details microbiologist Maria Eugênia Guazzaroni.
USP maps ICU bacteria at the Clinical Hospital in Ribeirão Preto – Photo: Antônio Luiz / EPTV
From the results, the researchers want to make hospital staff, especially those working with cleaning, aware of the importance of following hygiene and sterilization protocols.
Another important finding of the study is that the cell phone is one of the most common contamination pathways. Therefore, healthcare professionals and even family members of patients should be aware that they should never handle the devices inside ICUs.
“Pick up the phone, take a look and just contaminate the phone. If he contaminated the device, he will take it home, or will walk in another room and may have the device as a source of contamination, ”says researcher Rafael Silva Rocha.
PhD in molecular biology from the Autonomous University of Madrid, Spain, Rocha warns that lab coats should never be worn by healthcare professionals outside the hospital environment. This is because they also carry numerous bacteria.
“The lab coat is a personal protective material and has to be treated as highly contaminated. It's not embellishment, it's not just to show it's being worn. It has to be used to protect yourself and others, not treat it as a fashion accessory, ”he says.
Ribeirão Preto's USP points out cell phone as one of the main sources of contamination in ICU – Photo: Antônio Luiz / EPTV