Textile Technology Studies Suggest New Performance Standards for Medical Uniforms are Possible


Three studies on a novel textile technology presented at the 2011 annual scientific meeting of the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America (SHEA) suggest that new personal protection standards in medical apparel are possible. The research was conducted on Vestex brand fabric VTT003, a fabric finished with a hydrophobic barrier and the antimicrobial Semeltec. The technologically advanced fabric technology was developed for apparel to better protect healthcare workers in clinical settings and to drive compliance by offering comfort to the wearer.

Weill Medical College of Cornell University researcher Thomas Walsh, MD, led a team to assess the protective properties of VTT003. The fabric passed the five standard tests used to evaluate all products employed in a healthcare setting. The standards are water resistance, hydrostatic pressure, synthetic blood, dry bacterial penetration and wet bacterial penetration. The study suggests that "further testing of VTT003 performance is warranted" as "reducing the transmission of blood, bodily fluids, and other contaminants via HCW and patient worn textiles is of vital importance in occupational safety and infection control programs."

Researchers from Virginia Commonwealth University tested the efficacy of Vestex scrub uniforms on the bacterial burden of apparel and hands. Gonzalo Bearman, MD, MPH, led the four-month, cross-over trial in a medical ICU that found Vestex scrubs "were associated with decreased MRSA burden" when compared to standard scrubs and no impact was seen on healthcare worker hand colonization. Additionally, "when bundled with infection prevention strategies, antimicrobial impregnated scrubs may limit the bacterial burden of apparel."

A study at the MedStar Health Research Institute in Washington, D.C., evaluated the susceptibility of Semeltec and subsequently, VTT003, to Clostridium difficile (C. diff), one of the most common and fastest growing infectious agents in healthcare facilities.

Led by Matthew Hardwick, PhD, director of the Laboratory of Clinical Investigations MedStar Health Research Institute, and designed and conducted by Mary Beth Minyard, MSCLS, M(ASCP) of Southern Research Institute, the study exposed C. diff to dilutions of Semeltec in three time-kill assays for 5, 10 and 15 minutes. All dilutions of the antimicrobial were "highly effective in killing C. diff organism[s] within five minutes." Furthermore, "VTT003 fabric, embedded with Semeltec and a hydrophobic barrier, maintains this killing effect after overnight incubation" which suggests that "VTT003 may represent a novel antimicrobial fabric for use as an anti-infective barrier, specifically against C. diff, in healthcare institutions."

"I believe Vestex textiles have a strong future in helping to reduce microbial burden in healthcare facilities," Hardwick says.

Minyard adds, "I was skeptical at first, but pleasantly surprised with our findings. When I see an agentin this case a textiledemonstrate efficacy against an organism as important as C. diff, I am reminded of how important this work is to healthcare settings and the community."

Vestex was developed by Orlando-based Vestagen Technical Textiles. Its patented technology repels blood and bodily fluids, and contains an antimicrobial that protects the fabric from degradation due to microorganisms. In addition, Vestex is breathable, perspiration-wicking and naturally self-cleaning, helping to keep medical personnel clean, cool and dry.

"This research validates the plausibility of new standards for medical textiles to better protect healthcare workers and patients," says Ben Favret, president and CEO of Vestagen. "There are strict textile standards to protect health care workers in operating rooms, but not outside of the operating room where there are many splashes, splatters and spills. But because personal protection apparel is generally uncomfortable, compliance is often as low as 30 percent to 50 percent. The results of these studies are encouraging because they suggest that Vestex can provide protection as well as comfort, making compliance easier."

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