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Latest hands-free electronic water faucets found to be hindrance, not help, in infection control
Date:3/31/2011

The Johns Hopkins researchers will present their findings at the annual meeting of the Society for Health Care Epidemiology (SHEA) in Dallas on April 2.

Infection control experts behind the latest study, believed to be the first detailed analysis to show how and why these new fixtures pose a problem in preventing Legionella infections in hospitals, say the electronic devices were widely introduced in patient care and public areas of hospitals across the United States, including in The Johns Hopkins Hospital, more than a decade ago. The idea was to prevent bacterial spread from people touching the faucet's water handles with their dirty hands.

As a result of the study, conducted over a seven-week period from December 2008 to January 2009, Johns Hopkins facilities engineers removed all 20 newer faucets from patient care areas and replaced them with manual types. A hundred similar electronic faucets are also being replaced throughout the hospital, and hospital leadership elected to use traditional fixtures some 1,080 of them in all patient care areas in the new clinical buildings currently under construction at Johns Hopkins' East Baltimore campus. The new buildings are set to open in 2012.

Lead study investigator Emily Sydnor, M.D., a fellow in infectious diseases at Johns Hopkins, says Legionella bacteria, commonly found in water supplied from public utilities, rarely cause illness in people with healthy immune systems, but pose a real risk of infection in hospital patients whose immune systems are weakened from cancer chemotherapy, anti-rejection drugs after organ transplant, or from diseases such as HIV/AIDS.

Sydnor says this is why some hospitals, including Johns Hopkins, treat water supplied from public utilities with chlorine dioxide or other methods to keep Legionella levels low.

Indeed, the original goal of the research team, says co-investigator Gregory Bova, senior engineer at Johns Hopkins, was to t
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Contact: David March
dmarch1@jhmi.edu
410-955-1534
Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions
Source:Eurekalert

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