A peek behind the paper – Ioana Chirca on the hospital environment and its microbial burden

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Take a look behind the scenes of a recent Future Microbiology editorial, entitled ‘The hospital environment and its microbial burden: Challenges and solutions’ as we ask author Ioana Chirca (University Hospital Augusta, GA, USA) about controlling microbial burdens in the healthcare environment and promising solutions for the future.

What inspired you to write this piece?

My inspiration was brought by the daily struggle to keep the hospital clean and safe for the patients. Hospital-acquired infections are a reality we cannot contest, and they are particularly difficult to deal with due to increasingly resistant organisms.

Why are microbial burdens so hard to control in hospital environments? Why is this a problem?

Microbial burdens are difficult to control in the hospital environment due to many factors, including frequent transfers of patients to and from procedures, multiple interactions with staff and family members who transfer the bacteria from the environment onto the patients, and increasingly resistant and resilient organisms.

What more do we need to understand about these microorganism niches?

It is still poorly understood how often the transfer of bacteria to the patient results in colonization and how often colonization results in infection. In addition, risk of infection appears to be different depending on the type of microorganism and the complex interactions between the organism and the host.

Read the full article in Future Microbiology now >

What are the current recommendations for controlling and eliminating these microbes in hospitals? Why are these not working?

Cleaning and disinfection, routine and terminal, are standard approaches to controlling and eliminating the microorganisms in the hospitals. In addition, hand hygiene and proper use of personal protective equipment are important tools in the fight against environmental bioburden. No matter how effective these strategies are the environment becomes re-colonized rapidly, making these strategies imperfect.

Are there any promising solutions for the future?

Some of the promising solutions we have started to see are antimicrobial surfaces and materials and new ways to deliver disinfectants to the environment.

What work will you do in this field? What do you hope to see?

I believe protocols for hospital environment cleaning and disinfection that are clear and easy to use are very important. Consistent hand hygiene and use of protective equipment is another focus of my work. I am hoping to see more work on antimicrobial surfaces and materials as a long term and durable solution for controlling the bioburden.

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