Cross Contamination: what’s to be done?

There’s a game that’s used to teach primary school children the importance of proper hand washing. At the start of the session, one child has their palms rubbed with a small amount of glitter. An hour or so later, after carrying on with regular activities, everyone runs round the room to find out where that glitter has spread to – or, just as importantly, where it hasn’t reached. Now imagine doing the same in your practice, but also tossing some of the glitter into the air as if it has been sprayed by a sneeze or a sudden spurt from a lanced abscess. Where wouldn’t the glitter end up?

No matter how thorough and regular a cleaning regimen you implement, there will always be time for micro-organisms to latch onto surfaces. Not all of those will be harmful, or even potentially harmful, but some might well set up reservoirs of infection. Then there’s the issue of cross contamination; bacteria, moulds and viruses blown onto those surfaces not in direct contact with the original source of contamination can be transferred by otherwise clean hands onto surfaces elsewhere in the practice. The more reservoirs that exist for harmful bacteria, moulds and viruses, the greater the chance is of patients contracting a hospital – or veterinary practice – acquired infection. Some of these might be easily treatable, but others won’t be (such as the dreaded MRSA) and in either case, prevention is always going to be better than cure.

One potential solution for preventing these infections is for surfaces to be treated with an anti-microbial coating that prevents cross contamination taking hold. Silver-based technology has a centuries-long history as an antimicrobial agent, although its use initially waned once antibiotics gained their reputation as ‘cure-alls’. That reputation had some foundation, at least where bacteria were concerned, but may have led us to become complacent. Now, with the ever-increasing list of multi-drug-resistant strains of bacteria and our enhanced knowledge of diseases where antibiotics aren’t effective – such as those caused by viruses and other non-bacterial micro-organisms – it’s time to look closely at anti-microbials once again.

The highest standards for cleanliness in working environments where infection is a particular hazard – hospitals, food preparation and serving areas and, of course, veterinary practices – stress not only the need for proper cleaning of equipment and regular thorough hand washing by all members of the team, but also the use of antimicrobial agents on surfaces. Antimicrobial coatings enhance the efficiency of cleaning methods by lowering the levels of microbes that need to be cleared away, and thorough cleaning allows the antimicrobial coatings to work at maximum efficiency by cutting down on dust and dirt in which microbes can be shielded from the deadly silver ions.

In much the same way as cleaning can work in conjunction with antimicrobial coatings, equipment suppliers can work with veterinary practices to ensure that everything is being done to keep cross contamination of your equipment to a minimum. Gratnells Veterinary Storage Systems are at the forefront when it comes to the use of anti-microbial technology on the surfaces of their units, and are working constantly to improve the biosecurity of their ranges. New and exciting developments are in the pipeline and all will be revealed at the London Vet Show. For now, though, rest assured that the silver-ion coating on Gratnells frames and trolleys is working just as hard as you are to reduce the risks posed by cross contamination, and enhance your own highly efficient cleaning regimens.

How do you keep your storage areas clean and germ-free? What’s your best tip for keeping everything clean and tidy on even the busiest of working days? Send your stories to bestpractice@gratnellsveterinary.com and help get your ideas into the Gold Standard on veterinary storage solutions.

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