A study of newly installed, hands-free faucets at The Johns Hopkins Hospital, all equipped with the latest electronic-eye sensors to automatically detect hands and dispense preset amounts of water, shows they were more likely to be contaminated with one of the most common and hazardous bacteria in hospitals compared to old-style fixtures with separate handles for hot and cold water.
"Newer is not necessarily better when it comes to infection control in hospitals, especially when it comes to warding off potential hazards from water-borne bacteria, such as Legionella species," says senior study investigator and infectious disease specialist Lisa Maragakis, M.D., M.P.H. "New devices, even faucets, however well intentioned in their make-up and purpose, have the potential for unintended consequences, which is why constant surveillance is needed," says Maragakis, director of hospital epidemiology and infection control at Hopkins Hospital and an assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
Although the high-tech faucets cut daily water consumption by well over half, Johns Hopkins researchers identified Legionella growing in 50 percent of cultured water samples from 20 electronic-eye faucets in or near patient rooms on three different inpatient units, but in only 15 percent of water cultures from 20 traditional, manual faucets in the same patient care areas. Weekly water culture results also showed half the amount of bacterial growth of any kind in the manual faucets than in the electronic models.
While the precise reasons for the higher bacterial growth in the electronic faucets still need clarification, the researchers say it appears that standard hospital water disinfection methods, which complement treatments by public utilities, did not work well on the complex valve components of the newer faucets. They suspect that the valves simply offer additional surfaces for bacteria to become trapped and grow.
|Contact: David March|
Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions