Make the right choice with antimicrobial building products

July 25, 2010

Modern healthcare is all about choices, with patients having the legal right to choose which hospital their GP refers them to for assessment, and possible treatment, by a specialist consultant.
The NHS suggests a number of criteria for comparing hospitals and deciding which is most suitable, from considering convenience and specialities to comparing overall quality of service, mortality rates, waiting times, infection rates and even parking facilities.
What may be difficult to find for comparison is reference to hospitals stepping up their infection control measures not only to encompass rigorous cleaning and personal hygiene regimes, but also to include investment in specialist building materials that are proven to kill some of the most virulent and dangerous bacteria found in hospitals and health-care related environments.
Products such as trunking systems, door handles and light switches can all be treated with a silver ion-based antimicrobial additive that proves lethal when it comes into contact with potentially deadly bugs such as MRSA, Klebsiella Pneumonia, E-Coli and Salmonella.
Given a choice would you prefer to be treated on a ward that has been kitted out with these antimicrobial products or on a ‘normal’ ward with no such protection? Not sure? Consider the statistics – a study carried out comparing two wards, one equipped with a range of antimicrobial products and the other with standard products, showed that as well as reducing bacteria counts by 95% or more on the antimicrobial products, bacteria counts on untreated surfaces were on average more than 40% lower.
It’s an issue causing debate within health trusts for a number of reasons. Firstly, there is no nationwide policy on the specification of antimicrobial products – individual trusts are left to make their own decisions on the usefulness of such systems. Confusingly, some trusts even have disparity within their own organisations. We feel that, with no one organisation or person taking responsibility for considering antimicrobial products, a massive opportunity to reduce the risk of cross infection is being missed.
And then there is the issue of cleaning. One argument against the use of bug-busting building materials is that cleaning operatives will not work as effectively if they know these systems are installed. We wonder why that should be the case. If the job profile states that the cleaning team should clean surfaces once every 24 hours, then it is not a matter for discussion and surely it is better to install antimicrobial materials whatever the case, thereby adding another line of defence? The third point of contention comes back to patient care. One health trust has been quoted publicly stating that it is ‘worried’ that if the public sees the information about antimicrobial products they will only want to attend hospitals equipped with these systems. It’s a fair point.
In the face of such compelling evidence in favour of antimicrobial systems it is frustrating that more healthcare facilities and environments where cross-contamination is an issue, are not being equipped with these new and highly effective products. Of course, there is a cost implication, but it fades into insignificance when you consider that the National Audit Office calculated that hospital acquired infections cost the NHS up to £1 billion per year and affect some nine percent of hospital patients at any one time. At trust level hospital-acquired infections mean longer stays in hospital and often require nursing in isolation, both drains on precious resources. And that’s before you take into account the human tragedy behind the figures – in 2006 the risk of dying from a hospital acquired infection in England and Wales was 1 in 11,000 overall (1 in 250,000 in under 45s and 1 in 300 in over 85s*).

How antimicrobial products workThe science behind these systems revolves around the use of silver ions, which a company such as Marshall-Tufflex incorporates into the PVC-U of its Bio Trunking Solutions range. The ions stop bacteria reproducing. If someone carrying MRSA, E-Coli or Salmonella, for example, touches the treated PVC-U, bacteria transferred to the cable containment begins to die, minimising the risk of cross contamination. On untreated products, the harmful bacteria flourish.

Anti-microbial cable management systems come in two variants:• The silver-based formulation is added to the PVC-U during manufacture, ensuring that it is evenly distributed throughout the product. Should the trunking get scratched, the active agent continues to do its job.
• The silver-based formulation is applied to the surface of the cable containment – typically on metal trunking systems. However, once this coating is scratched, germs can penetrate the surface layer of these products and breed unchecked.
Specifiers working on healthcare projects should give priority consideration to trunking with the antimicrobial agent integral to the product, rather than applied as a coating. This specification ensures maximum performance throughout the lifetime of the trunking.
Technical standards
Those thinking of using an anti-microbial system should confirm that it is registered with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and compliant with the European Biocidal Products Directive (BPD). All Marshall-Tufflex Bio systems have been tested to the standard ISO22196:2007 which is quantitative standard and the results show that the survival rate of the bacteria tested is less than 0.1%.
ConclusionWhile there is no substitute for meticulous cleaning regimes and scrupulous personal hygiene, building products such as this are a valuable and additional weapon that can be used to great effect in the fight against superbugs and other infections. Antimicrobial cable containment is a straight-forward, cost-effective and proven method of neutralising some of the most common and dangerous bacteria found in hospitals, care homes and other locations where infection control is an issue. It works silently, invisibly and round the clock, killing bacteria and preventing cross-infection.
* Source of information Bandolier, an independent journal about evidence-based healthcare written by Oxford scientists

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