ISLAMABAD: A new study suggests that the floor may be an overlooked source of healthcare-associated infection and may help to spread pathogens such as Clostridium difficile and MRSA though contact with high-touch objects.

The team - including researchers from the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Cleveland, OH - reports the study in the American Journal of Infection Control. The researchers behind the new study suggest that their findings highlight an area that may be overlooked in measures to prevent and control healthcare-associated infections. They note that: "Efforts to improve disinfection in the hospital environment usually focus on surfaces that are frequently touched by the hands of healthcare workers or patients."

Even though floors are heavily contaminated, because they are not classed as a frequently touched surface, they do not receive as much attention as high-touch objects, they add. For their study, the researchers investigated five hospitals in the Cleveland area.

They also took samples from the bare and gloved hands of healthcare staff, as well as from other high-touch surfaces including call buttons, medical devices, linen, medical supplies, and clothing. The results showed that floors in patient rooms were often contaminated with MRSA, vancomycin-resistant enterococci, and C. difficile, with C. difficile being "the most frequently recovered pathogen in both CDI isolation rooms and non-CDI rooms."

The researchers also found that high-touch objects, including call buttons and blood pressure cuffs, were frequently in contact with the floor, and contact with objects on the floor often led to the transfer of pathogens to hands. They suggest that further research should now be done to investigate the extent to which the floors of hospital rooms might be an underappreciated source for the spread of pathogens.

Linda Greene, president of the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology, says that: "Understanding gaps in infection prevention is critically important for institutions seeking to improve the quality of care offered to patients," and concludes.

"Even though most facilities believe they are taking the proper precautions, this study points out the importance of ensuring cleanliness of the hospital environment and the need for education of both staff and patients on this issue."