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J Hosp Infect. 2012 Mar;80(3):192-8. doi: 10.1016/j.jhin.2011.12.005. Epub 2012 Jan 20.

Effect of surface coating and finish upon the cleanability of bed rails and the spread of Staphylococcus aureus.

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Department of Clinical Microbiology, University College London Hospital, London, UK.



Bacterial reservoirs in the near-patient environment are likely vectors of healthcare-acquired infection.


To conduct a laboratory-based study to confirm a previous clinical finding of higher numbers of bacteria on plastic than on painted steel bed rails.


Six different surfaces were inoculated with Staphylococcus aureus suspended in a range of synthetic soils. Aerobic colony counts and ATP bioluminescence were used to assess the efficacy of cleaning with microfibre cloths and antibacterial wipes. The ease with which S. aureus was transferred between fingertips and each bed rail was also investigated.


Antibacterial wipes reduced bacterial numbers to below detectable levels on all rails but were less effective than microfibre cloths in removing organic debris. Surfaces that were comparatively easy to clean were more likely to transfer S. aureus on contact. If inadequately disinfected these rails could pose the greatest risk in terms of cross-transmission. In the absence of contaminating soil, bacterial transfer from fingertips to rail ranged from 38% to 64%. Transfer from rail to fingertip ranged from 22% to 38%. Surface material and rugosity were important factors in determining cleanability and transfer rate. However, the presence of organic soils affected bacterial transfer from all bed rails regardless of material or finish.


Bed rails can become heavily contaminated. Regular wiping with antibacterial wipes could be a cost-effective means of maintaining low numbers of bacteria near to the patient. To minimize the risk of cross-transmission, cleaning protocols should be validated to ensure effective removal of microbial and non-microbial surface contamination.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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