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Hospital Bacteria Outbreaks Linked To Pipe-Climbing Bacteria

First Posted: Mar 03, 2017 05:33 AM EST
Hospital Bacteria Outbreaks
Bacteria can climb up the sink, get splashed and cause hospital bacteria outbreaks.
(Photo : DNews/YouTube screenshot)

Hospital bacteria outbreaks have always been a major health concern in almost all countries. The chance outbreak of pathogenic disease-causing bacteria or, worse, antibiotic-resistant pathogenic bacteria can cause mass fatalities. Though doctors and hospital management staff take all the necessary measures that may help in avoiding such unfortunate incidents, they are not 100 percent effective.

While researching the various factors that may be contributing to such outbreaks, scientists disccovered that potentially dangerous bacterial species usually inhabit the drains and sinks of the hospitals. Furthermore, in the presence of continual supply of nutrient-rich hospital wastes, like intravenous fluids, blood samples or just left over beverages, they multiply and spread to other places of the hospital.

Researchers from the University of Virginia found that these bacteria can happily flourish in the P traps of the hospital sinks. They can also climb up from there to reach the drain area, and then all it takes is a splash of water. The bacteria get splashed with water and grow wherever they land. This has been identified as one of the root causes of the outbreaks of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, Science reported.

According to the study findings published in the Applied and Environmental Microbiology journal, P trap-dwelling bacteria form protective layers called "biofilms" that help them survive by not getting washed away. The researchers also found that these bacteria can climb up the pipe at an average of 2.5 cm per day and reach the drain within seven days, ARS Technica reported.

To study the viability and outreach of the splashed out bacteria, the researchers placed nutrient agar plates at variable distances from the sink. They later on found out that the test E. coli strains (glow in dark) managed to reach up to 0.73 meter from the sink and maintained their full viability.

The researchers are of the opinion knowing about this novel mechanism adopted by the sink-dwelling bacteria may help in devising new methods to counteract their outreach and most likely prevent such hospital bacteria outbreaks in the future.

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