Occupational Health & Safety

Hopkins Study Proves Hydrogen Peroxide Vaporizers Highly Effective

The hospital announced Dec. 31 that it will begin decontaminating isolation rooms with these devices, which disperse the bleaching agent into the air and, after all surfaces have been covered, break it down into its water and oxygen components.

Infection control experts at The Johns Hopkins Hospital report their study of the use of hydrogen peroxide vaporizers shows the devices are highly effective at killing and preventing the spread of multi-drug-resistant bacteria. These robot-like devices first were used in Singapore hospitals during the 2002 outbreak of SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) and later were stocked by several U.S. government agencies in case of an anthrax attack, according to the researchers, whose study is published Jan. 1 in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.

The hospital announced Dec. 31 that it will begin decontaminating isolation rooms with these paired devices, which disperse the bleaching agent into the air and, after all exposed surfaces have been covered with a thin layer of hydrogen peroxide, break it down into its water and oxygen components so it will not be harmful to patients or staffers.

The study tracked some 6,350 patient admissions over 2.5 years as those patients moved in and out of 180 private hospital rooms. Almost half of the rooms received enhanced cleaning with hydrogen peroxide vapor between patients, while the others did not. Though multi-drug-resistant organisms were found on room surfaces in 21 percent of rooms tested, this occurred mostly in rooms that did not undergo the enhanced cleaning. The study also found protection from infection was conferred on patients regardless of whether the previous room occupant was infected with drug-resistant bacteria or not.

"Hydrogen peroxide vapor, as spread around patients' rooms by these devices, represents a major technological advance in preventing the spread of dangerous bacteria inside hospitals, and especially from one patient occupant to the next, even though sick patients were never in the same room at the same time," said infectious disease specialist and study senior investigator Trish Perl, M.D., M.Sc.

She and her colleagues reported enhanced cleaning cut by 80 percent a patient's chances of becoming colonized by an aggressive, hard-to-treat bacterium, vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE). They tested patients and their surroundings for it and also for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, Clostridium difficile, and Acinetobacter baumannii. The enhanced cleaning process takes about 90 minutes.

"Our study results are evidence that technological solutions, when combined with standard cleaning, can effectively and systematically decontaminate patients' rooms and augment other behavioral practices, such as strict hospital staff compliance with hand-washing and bathing patients in disinfecting chlorhexidine when they are first admitted to the hospital," said Perl, senior hospital epidemiologist for the Johns Hopkins Health System and a professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, according to the Johns Hopkins Medicine news release. (http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/news/media/releases/hydrogen_peroxide_vapor_enhances_hospital_disinfection_of_superbugs)

The vaporizers and supplies used in the study were provided by their manufacturer, Bioquell Inc. of Horsham, Pa.

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