A team of Canadian scientists using a lotion which glows under ultraviolet light have shown that up to a third of patient toilets are not properly cleaned. Their findings, published in BioMed Central's journal, BMC Infectious Diseases, also show that spores from the nasty bacteria Clostridium difficile (C. difficile) linger in the loo even when it has been thoroughly wiped down.
Michelle Alfa and a team of scientists from Manitoba, Canada investigated the spread of so-called superbugs in hospitals. Hospital patients are thought to catch bugs like vancomycin resistant Enterococci (VRE), methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and C. difficile because they are not eradicated from the hospital environment. These bugs may be transferred between patients through cross-contamination in the bathroom.
"Various studies have looked at the most effective cleaning agents, but none of these studies considered whether housekeeping staff were actually cleaning the toilets properly," says Alfa. "It is impossible to assess the effectiveness of any action against these bacteria unless you can be sure that cleaners comply with protocols."
Alfa's toilet inspectors smeared the UV lotion under the seats of 20 toilets and commodes being used by patients with diarrhoea at a hospital in Winnipeg. Seven of these patients had C. difficile infection, while 13 others did not. The toilets and commodes were tested every weekday for six months and checked using UV light to determine how well they had been cleaned. In addition, samples were taken from toilet surfaces to determine whether C difficile spores were present.