Queen Elizabeth Hospital has a breakthrough in infection control
- Credit: Matthew Usher
Doctors at the intensive care unit of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, in King's Lynn, have been testing a unique disinfectant which has been shown to keep computer accessories germ-free for hours after it has been applied.
The specialist alcohol, which has been developed for hospital use, can be wiped over a regular keyboard to keep bugs such as MRSA away from the equipment for several hours.
Peter Young, a critical care consultant at QEH, said: 'This is really practical for hospitals at many levels.
'When doctors assess patients, for example, they go back and forth between the person and the bedside computer to write up their notes. But it means bacteria is also being transferred from one place to another.'
He added: 'We found that when keyboards were wiped with chlorhexidine gluconate (CHG), the specialist disinfectant, they were clean immediately afterwards and maintained that level of cleanliness for up to six hours.
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'The power of most disinfectants diminishes over time, but that doesn't happened with CHG and we use it extensively in this unit. In theory, it should even work against the Ebola virus.'
The team have also tested the disinfectant on tablet computers and phones which are becoming much more widely used in hospitals, because there were concerns that it would affect the functionality of the device.
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'But our study found that using CHG didn't affect the functionality of the tablets at all,' said Dr Young.
'An iPad could be such a practical device for us here at the hospital and now we can show there is a way to keep the bacteria away.'
Computer equipment in hospitals has been an infection control concern for some time, and specialist sealed keyboards that were very easy to clean had been developed for wards.
Dr Young added: 'But they were much more expensive than a regular keyboard.
'A sealed keyboard costs £200; a regular keyboard £15. The CHG wipes cost a matter of pennies, so it makes economic sense for us to try to use regular keyboards with the disinfectant.'
While the results are promising, it was stressed that the CHG was not effective against all hospital bugs.
The team published their most recent study into CHG in the American Journal of Infection Control with funding through the Eastern Critical Care Network.
Rhiannon Jones, Anna Hutton, Maryanne Mariyselvam, Emily Hodges, Katherine Wong and Mark Blunt also authored the study.
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