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Study Results: The Verdict is in on Antibacterial Wipes

Do you use antibacterial wipes to clean and disinfect your home or office? Well, you may want to keep reading! The results of a recent study indicate that antibacterial wipes have been given too much credit for killing germs.  In fact, antibacterial wipes could potentially actually spread germs. Let’s take a closer look at the results of this study . . .

The results of a recent study indicate that antibacterial wipes have been given too much credit for killing germs.  In fact, antibacterial wipes could potentially actually spread germs, according to researchers from the Welsh School of Pharmacy at Cardiff University in Wales. These researchers conducted a test that involved a three step process to determine the effectiveness of preventing and killing bacteria on surfaces.

The Study
Three different tests were conducted on three different types of store brand wipes.  They were tested on surfaces that were contaminated with Staphylococcus aureus, including methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).  The wipes either had traditional disinfectants or natural antimicrobial substances that were extracted from plants.

The natural antimicrobial wipes removed the most from the surfaces, but the traditional disinfectants killed the most. However, they did not kill all of the bacteria.  Therefore, bacterium was spread from one surface to the next.  "Ideally, you'd want the wipes to kill what they remove," said lead researcher Gareth Williams.

Since these wipes have become so popular in hospitals, daycare centers and schools, more needs to be done to train nurses and school officials how to “properly” use a disinfectant wipe.  This means that once a wipe has touched a surface, it should not be used again, which would help to reduce the transfer of germs.

These wipes have been used quite a bit in hospitals and nursing homes where the MRSA infection has been spreading quite quickly. 

Two Welsh hospitals were studied and found that the majority of the time, a single wipe would clean the surfaces of many areas, such as the bed rails, monitors and tables.

"We found that the most effective way to prevent the risk of MRSA spread in hospital wards is to ensure the wipe is used only once on one surface," Williams said.

Dr. William Schaffner, chair of the department of preventative medicine at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, has a motto for disinfectant wipes:  "Use it and lose it."

Schaffner also states that hospital surfaces are not the primary cause of bacteria that infects patients.  It is the other patients and healthcare workers. 

"It is hands that are the great transfer vehicle for bacteria from patient to patient," Schaffner said. It is disgusting and shocking to learn that many times healthcare workers, including doctors and nurses, often do not wash their hands.

According to Donna Duberg, assistant professor of clinical laboratory science at Saint Louis University in St. Louis, Missouri, “disinfection should not be confused with sterilization. Disinfection is not designed to kill all organisms, simply to reduce the number of organisms on a surface. Sterilization is unnecessary, especially in homes, which are much less contaminated than a hospital ICU.”

 "Our bodies are designed to handle a certain number of bacteria. We use way too many antibacterial agents," she said.  She also states “the overuse of products such as wipes, soaps and cleansers that contain these substances can lead bacteria to become resistant to our methods of extermination.”

 "I personally believe there isn't anything that good, hot soapy water can't clean," Duberg said.
These study results were presented June 3, 2008 at the 108th General Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology (ASM) in Boston.

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