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.
The UV marker revealed that the commodes for the seven patients isolated with C. difficle infections had not been properly cleaned 72% of the time. The toilets fared slightly better, with half of the samples taken showing no residual UV lotion after cleaning. The 13 patients not on isolation had much cleaner toilets, with only 14% glowing brightly under UV light. Further assessments showed that differences in toilet cleaning were “ward dependent” and since specific cleaners work on different wards, the results likely reflect characteristics of the individual cleaning staff.
More worryingly, C. difficle was still detected in 40% of samples taken from the cleanest toilets (i.e. those with no detectable UV marker). “This suggests that both the physical cleaning action as well as the disinfectant/cleaning agent were ineffective for killing and/or removing C. difficile from toilets,” notes Alfa.
“Our data suggest that without an agent with some activity against C. difficile spores the physical action of cleaning alone cannot be relied upon to effectively eradicate this organism from the toilets of patients who are shedding this type of spore. Nevertheless, we would still recommend that monitoring with a UV marker becomes a routine part of a hospital's housekeeping quality assurance programme.
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Controlling electronic current is essential to modern electronics, as data and signals are transferred by streams of electrons which are controlled at high speed. Demands on transmission speeds are also increasing as technology develops. Scientists from the Chair of Laser Physics and the Chair of Applied Physics at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) have succeeded in switching on a current with a desired direction in graphene using a single laser pulse within a femtosecond ¬¬ – a femtosecond corresponds to the millionth part of a billionth of a second. This is more than a thousand times faster compared to the most efficient transistors today.
Graphene is up to the job
At the productronica trade fair in Munich this November, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be presenting Laser-Based Tape-Automated Bonding, LaserTAB for short. The experts from Aachen will be demonstrating how new battery cells and power electronics can be micro-welded more efficiently and precisely than ever before thanks to new optics and robot support.
Fraunhofer ILT from Aachen relies on a clever combination of robotics and a laser scanner with new optics as well as process monitoring, which it has developed...
Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.
A warming planet
Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.
The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...
Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...
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