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04 September 2009

X-ray equipment crawling with germs

Portable X-ray equipment is implicated in the spreading of drug-resistant bacteria in the intensive care unit (ICU), Israeli researchers report.

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Portable X-ray equipment is implicated in the spreading of drug-resistant bacteria in the intensive care unit (ICU), Israeli researchers report.

Dr Phillip D. Levin of Hadassah Hebrew University Hospital, Jerusalem and colleagues recently watched technicians perform 173 chest X-rays.

Adequate infection control was practiced only during two of these procedures, or only 1%, they report, and drug-resistant bacteria were discovered on the surfaces of 12 of 30 X-ray machines, or 39%.

Following the observation period, the investigators instituted an educational intervention aimed at the technicians and then evaluated its impact, which was significant.

Adequate infection control was observed in 48 of 113 subsequent X-rays (42%) and none of the 29 machine samples yielded drug-resistant bacteria. But the improvement was short-lived.

What the study showed
A follow-up study five months later found that only 12 of 120 X-rays (10 %) were conducted with adequate infection control and seven of 14 surface samples (50 %) yielded resistant bacteria.

"To date," Levin said, "no one had looked at the X-ray technicians and their equipment and seen them as a potential link in the network of cross contamination of ICU patients with highly antibiotic resistant bacteria."

"Based on the results of this study," Levin said, "our hospital has instituted a wide-ranging disinfection protocol for all X ray equipment." – (Reuters Health, September 2009)

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