World Health & Population

World Health & Population 12(3) January 2011 .doi:10.12927/whp.2011.22098

The Potential for Transmission of Hospital-Acquired Infections by Non-critical Medical Devices: The Role of Thermometers and Blood Pressure Cuffs

C. J. Uneke and P. A. Ijeoma


Healthcare-associated infection (HAI) is a major but often neglected public health problem. Most attention to HAI prevention is given to high-risk invasive diagnostic and therapeutic healthcare tools, while the importance of less critical tools tends to be underestimated. This study was designed to assess the potential contributory role played by thermometers and blood pressure cuffs in HAI transmission in a Nigerian teaching hospital. Analysis of swabs from thermometers and blood pressure cuffs used in the teaching hospital was conducted using standard microbiological techniques.

Results showed that 62.1% of thermometers and 82.1% of blood pressure cuffs examined were contaminated with Staphylococcus aureus, Pseudomonas aeruginosa or Enterococcus faecalis. S. aureus was the most common bacterial isolate, constituting 86.1% and 73.9% of the isolates from thermometers and blood pressure cuffs, respectively. Up to 80% and 100% of thermometers and pressure cuffs from the nursing unit and medical ward were contaminated. The bacterial isolates were resistant to the majority of the antibiotics tested, but all were susceptible to ciprofloxacin and streptomycin to varying degrees. This study emphasizes the urgent need to sanitize thermometers and blood pressure cuffs between patients to minimize transmission of resistant bacteria within hospitals by cross-colonization of non-critical medical devices used by healthcare staff.



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