Hospital superbugs found thriving 
on ‘disinfected’ surgical gowns

Superbugs are clinging on to surgical gowns and instruments even after they have been disinfected, according to scientists examining the resistance of Clostridium difficile.

The bug, which is thought to be responsible for 1,600 deaths a year in the UK, can cause diarrhoea, fever, rapid heartbeat, inflammation of the intestines and kidney failure.

Researchers infected single-use surgical gowns with three strains of 
C difficile. The polypropylene gowns were treated for 10 minutes with disinfectant containing 1,000 parts per million of chlorine.

Not only did spores of all the strains remain; they did not even reduce.

Dr Tina Joshi, who led the research at the University of Plymouth, said: “This study shows that even when we think an item has been suitably cleaned, it hasn’t been necessarily.”

Increasing “the concentration of the biocide” might not be enough without the introduction of other measures, she added. “Gowns should not be worn outside of isolated areas as the spores are good at sticking to clinical surfaces and can easily be transferred.”

The research was published in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology.

Grahame White