What’s so special about this toilet door at Wisbech Grammar School? Consultants at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King’s Lynn say it’s confirmed a major medical breakthrough
- Credit: Matthew Usher
Students at Wisbech Grammar School teamed up with consultants at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn, for an experiment in which the doors of school toilets were tested for germs.
They found those which had been cleaned with the chemical chlorhexidine - known as CHG for short - remained germ-free for hours afterwards. The discovery could revolutionise cleaning techniques in the public sector, where toilet door handles can help transmit germs causing diarrhoea and sickness.
Hospital consultants stumbled across the solution by chance when they were carrying out a laboratory study of the long-term tolerance of their iPads to cleaning products. The team, led by medical director Dr Mark Blunt and critical care consultant Dr Peter Young, found they could not grow bacteria on those which had been wiped with a CHG swab.
Dr Young passed the discovery on to his 17-year-old daughter Holly and her classmates at the grammar school to research. Miss Young, from Roydon, who led the nine-strong team of sixth-formers, said they chose door knobs for their study because they were usually the last point of contact with someone leaving the toilets.
Dr Young said: 'Simply switching to this cleaning regimen will ensure that the bacterial load that your hands are exposed to is minimised.
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'It has broader applications in environmental health and we wanted to expand to community and institutional environments.'
The QEH team have already won a Health Watchdog infection control award for their findings related to cleaning of hospital equipment, and they were finalists in the British Medical Journal awards last year.
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Dr and Miss Young are now set to present their findings to an international conference in Las Vegas later this year.
The Wisbech Grammar School team were Holly Young, Annabelle Tibbett, Zara Plumb, James Stevenson, Tom beresford-Peirse, Joen Thompsett, Mehroze Asif, Alexander Rawson and Mignonne Gunasekara.