Study Finds 92% of Hospital Privacy Curtains Contaminated with Pathogenic Bacteria Within One Week

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PurThread Technologies is developing privacy curtains, scrubs and sheets with potential to resist bacterial contamination

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It’s estimated that U.S. hospitals spend up to $45 billion a year on healthcare-associated infections (HAIs). We look forward to helping hospitals in their fight to reduce HAIs and pioneering a new standard for soft surface cleanliness.

For one person in 20, spending the night in a hospital will lead to an infection, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Now, research recently published by the American Journal for Infection Control reveals 92% of hospital privacy curtains were contaminated with potentially dangerous bacteria such as MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) and VRE (vancomycin-resistant enterococcus) within one week of being laundered. This research, conducted at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine, advances a growing body of knowledge pointing to contaminated surfaces within the patient environment as a potentially strong contributor to healthcare-associated infections (HAIs). The same research group recently submitted for publication a follow-on, randomized, controlled study, examining the effectiveness of PurThread privacy curtains in a clinical setting.

The study, titled, “Hospital Privacy Curtains are Frequently and Rapidly Contaminated with Potentially Pathogenic Bacteria,” monitored 43 privacy curtains over a three-week period in a medical ward, surgical intensive care unit (ICU) and a medical ICU. Privacy curtains were chosen for the study as they are frequently touched by healthcare workers before coming in contact with patients, and because the curtains are difficult to clean and disinfect. As such, in most hospitals, privacy curtains are infrequently changed, often only after dirt is visible.

“It’s estimated that U.S. hospitals see over 1.7 million HAIs each year at a cost of $16,000 to $19,000 per patient, or up to $45 billion a year,” said Bill O’Neill, VP of Infection Control Applications at PurThread Technologies, an antimicrobial technology company focused on textile products for use in infection prevention. “While many of these HAIs are a result of catheters and ventilators, this study from the University of Iowa contributes to mounting evidence showing that surfaces in hospitals may be a source of contamination for healthcare worker hands after hand hygiene.”

Studies show 20%-40% of HAIs can be traced to the contamination of healthcare worker’s hands. The immediate action healthcare workers can take today is to wash their hands after touching privacy curtains and before touching the patient. In addition, a developing market for antimicrobial products, for both soft and hard surfaces, holds the potential to help hospitals continuously reduce the bioburden on frequently touched surfaces. The PurThread technology integrates a proprietary alloy of established antimicrobial elements, such as silver and copper, into the polyester fibers themselves. PurThread’s method provides an even distribution of antimicrobial elements that cannot wear off or wash out.

“This is an exciting time for hospital infection prevention,” added O’Neill. “Research data and technology improvements are giving hospitals many new options. We look forward to helping hospitals in their fight to reduce HAIs and pioneering a new standard for soft surface cleanliness.”

Publication of the follow on study is expected later in 2012. Both studies are funded through non-restrictive research grants from PurThread Technologies.

About PurThread Technologies, Inc.
PurThread™ Technologies Inc. is a development-stage company dedicated to using its proprietary antimicrobial technology to help hospitals reduce the bioburden on hard-to-clean soft surfaces in the patient environment. PurThread is designing linens, privacy curtains, scrubs and doctors’ coats for use in high touch/high risk environments to help reduce the risk of constantly recirculating bacteria among different touch points. PurThread Technologies Inc. is also exploring opportunities outside the infection prevention space where its technology may add value. For more information please visit http://www.PurThread.com

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Lisa Ann Pinkerton
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