Antibiotic Resistance and Air Filtration

February 03, 2021 3 min read

Antibiotic Resistance and Air Filtration


Clostridium difficile (CDiff) is a bacterium which commonly causes healthcare-associated infections and outbreaks tend to occur in the hospital and care home setting, with the main symptom being diarrhoea. Like many other bacteria, C.diff is prone to evolve so that it becomes resistant to the antibiotics used to wipe it out. It is a kind of arms race, where the microbe mutates so that it evades the weapons (antibiotics) used against it - making the investigation into antibiotic resistance and air filtration even more important.

A recent paper, from an international group of scientists (including those from the University of Cambridge and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine), shows just how alarming the public health issue of antibiotic resistance has become and the importance of airborne infection control. The researchers analysed the genetic code of two antibiotic-resistant strains of C.diff and showed how these had been able to spread around the world, spreading illness and death. Antibiotic resistance makes infection more severe and harder to treat.

The root cause of antibiotic resistance is the over-use of antibiotics themselves. For instance, each time you demand an antibiotic from the doctor to treat a case of flu (a viral infection which is unaffected by antibiotics, which only act against bacteria), and he or she gives in to you, then you are encouraging the growth of stronger and more successful bacteria in your body. Why? Because of the presence of the antibiotic acts as a selection pressure (in evolution speak) – it readily kills off any weaker bacteria, leaving a generation of stronger ones, which have cleverly mutated to avoid damage inflicted by antibiotic molecules, to survive and flourish. This is particularly true if you have correctly been prescribed an antibiotic for a true bacterial infection (a gum, throat or tonsil infection, for instance) and fail to finish the course because you start to feel better.

It is no use just relying on pharmaceutical companies to come up with new antibiotics to replace those which have lost their power. For it takes 10 years or more to develop a new drug and get it on the market. Instead, both doctors and patients need to treat existing antibiotics with new respect and use them only when they are really needed and to use them correctly. The signs are that this message is getting through for the latest figures from the Health Protection Agency show that preventing MRSA infections has improved, and MRSA related deaths in England and Wales are down by 25 per cent (from 485 in 2010 to 364 in 2011) while deaths from C.diff have also decreased, from 2704 in 2010 to 2053 in 2011. However, there is no room for complacency, for other antibiotic-resistant infections will take their place. For instance, Dr Robin Howe, who is in charge of public health for Wales, noted recently on the BBC that antibiotic-resistant infections are on the increase, overall in Wales.

So it is time to focus upon the second front in the fight against antibiotic resistance (the first being to use antibiotics sparingly). Basic and thorough hygiene is necessary, with deep cleaning of surfaces, hand hygiene and improved air quality and have higher standards of airborne infection control. Air purification is a key aspect, with high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA and HyperHEPA) filters being used in leading hospitals around the world to capture and retain pathogenic microbes made airborne (by coughs, sneezes and episodes of diarrhoea and vomiting). Otherwise, these airborne microbes are inhaled or will settle on surfaces such as doorknobs, beds, curtains, floors and furniture. If someone touches one of these surfaces and does not wash their hands, they may become infected.  So proper hospital air filtration can prevent a surface from microbial contamination in the first place.

One of the most effective air filtration systems deployed by hospitals and care homes is the IQAir Cleanroom. The IQAir Cleanroom should be an integral part of any strategy to capture harmful antibiotic-resistant bacteria and other microorganisms before given the chance to infect people. Studies have shown air-to-surface contamination can be reduced by as much as 96% with IQAir systems and infection reduced by over 50%.

Speak to one of the experts at Commercial Air Filtration today to discover how you, too, can benefit from air filtration solutions: 020 3176 0524 or

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