Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is a hard-to-treat infection that is relatively common among hospital patients with compromised immunity, such as those in the intensive care unit. In this article, we discuss the use of air cleaner for MRSA infection control.
MRSA infection was a factor in 781 deaths in England and Wales in 2009, a decrease of 37% over 2008 figures. So preventing MRSA infection may be getting better and every year more hospitals use air cleaner for MRSA infection control. You certainly also see more awareness of hand washing in hospitals these days. But there’s no room for complacency, because many other bacterias can, and have, become antibiotic resistant. Infection with such ‘superbugs’ is always going to be hard to treat. So for airborne infection control, prevention is better than cure.
While hand washing and general hygiene are the most powerful weapons against MRSA and other superbugs, there is evidence that air cleaning systems for hospitals play an important role as well. Researchers at Nottingham City Hospital have evaluated the effectiveness of an IQAir Cleanroom H13 portable high-efficiency air cleaner at reducing surface contamination with MRSA in a hospital setting.
The effectiveness of an air cleaner for MRSA infection control was measured in the ward side rooms of three patients known to have MRSA and to be dispersing the bacteria into their surroundings. The researchers used plates containing a special growth gel to trap the bacteria as a measure of surface contamination. Three different filtration rates of the IQAir Cleanroom H13 air purifier were used - from 60 to 235 cubic metres per hour and compared with no filtration. The majority of the plates tested positive for MRSA when there was no air filtration. Air filtration of the IQAir Cleanroom H13 air purifier at 140 cubic metres per hour (one patient’s room) and 235 cubic metres per hour (the other two patients’ rooms) was linked to a highly significant decrease in MRSA deposition on the plates. The study suggests that air filtration could be a very useful addition to standard airborne infection control measures - for it leads to less contamination on surfaces, so less contamination to clean up.
We already know that portable HEPA-filtration air purifiers can remove airborne particles. They have been used to remove spores of the fungus Aspergillus near building sites and therefore reduce the risk of infection of workers with aspergillosis. Particles the size of bacteria, droplets (often infected) and fungi can be removed efficiently and quickly. Removing MRSA bacterial particles before they can settle is likely to reduce the risk of cross infection. Because cleaning is not 100% effective in clearing MRSA - there’s a certain amount of spreading it around that occurs as well. So reducing the contamination in the first place, by purifying the air, will reduce the unintended consequences of ineffective cleaning.
Source: Boswell TC and Fox PC Reduction in MRSA environmental contamination with a portable HEPA-filtration unit Journal of Hospital Infection 2006; 1-8
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Since the emergence of Covid-19 and global efforts to minimise the spread of infection throughout populations, there has been a renewed focus on determining what measures can be adopted to mitigate the risk of airborne transmission of respiratory viruses, including Covid-19, in a range of close proximity indoor settings.