Experimental Antimicrobial Technology Could Decrease Transmission of Hospital Pathogens


A study conducted by the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine found that standard control curtains were eight times more likely to be contaminated with vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus (VRE) than experimental PurThread privacy curtains which only had one positive VRE culture during the entire study. 

Additionally, the median time to first contamination of PurThread curtains took seven times longer than control curtains. On average it took only two days for control curtains to become contaminated with potentially pathogenic bacteria, while PurThread curtains withstood contamination an average of 14 days. This double-blinded, randomized controlled trial is the first to assess the effectiveness of privacy curtains with antimicrobial properties in an active clinical setting. The study, "Novel Hospital Curtains with Antimicrobial Properties: A Randomized, Controlled Trial," was published online in the journal Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology. 

Without environmental hygiene, hand hygiene is insufficient to the challenge, says August Valenti, MD, an infectious disease physician at InterMed Maine Medical Center.  Healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) are the fourth highest cause of mortality among U.S. adults, and current hand hygiene efforts, while critical, are simply insufficient to the challenge of environmental contamination in the patient setting. This study suggests that continuously active surfaces, like those under development by PurThread, are solutions that may enhance hand hygiene efforts and provide an additional layer of patient safety.

Privacy curtains were chosen for the study because they are frequently touched by the freshly washed hands of healthcare workers before touching patients, and they often hang in place for weeks or months without being changed. A previous University of Iowa study, "Hospital Privacy Curtains are Frequently and Rapidly Contaminated with Potentially Pathogenic Bacteria," revealed that 92 percent of hospital privacy curtains were contaminated with methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and VRE within one week of being laundered. Additionally, published studies have shown the transfer of bacteria from curtains to healthcare worker gloves, and that healthcare worker hands are considered leading vectors of pathogens to patients.

In total, the University of Iowa study evaluated the privacy curtains in 30 rooms that admitted many patients with active infections (21 surgical intensive care units (ICU) rooms and nine medical ICUs). Fifteen rooms were randomly selected to have a new, standard curtain installed, while the remainder were fitted with experimental PurThread curtains, identical in look and feel. All 30 curtains were swabbed to collect samples for culturing twice a week for four weeks.

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