The research is important, says Harmsen, in order to reduce the incidence of microbial infection in neonates. "A direct relation between microbial growth in an incubator and infection has yet to be shown but common sense dictates it would be better if the temperature distribution within an incubator were as homogeneous as possible," he says.
Cold spots in warm, humid incubators and other closed environments are particularly vulnerable to contamination because the most important limiting factor for microbes in such environments is lack of moisture, and in such environments, the relative humidity is higher around cold spots, says Harmsen.
Interestingly, the research grew out of a project to create a risk assessment model for microbial growth on board the International Space Station, says Harmsen. "A neonatal incubator is not only a perfect model system for the International Space Station, as its average temperature and relative humidity are controlled and its inhabitants are both somewhat immune-compromised; this clinical setting is also very relevant itself as microbial infection and subsequent mortality in neonates are matters of great importance," says Harmsen. "Being able to predict which areas of an incubator might be more highly contaminated, based solely on the local temperature distribution, would facilitate improvement of hygiene in the incubator."
(M.C. de Goffau, K.A. Bergman, H.J. de Vries, N.E.L. Meessen, J.E. Degener, J.M. van Dijl, and H.J.M. Harmsen, 2011. Cold spots in neonatal incubators are hot spots for microbial contamination. Appl. Environ.
|Contact: Jim Sliwa|
American Society for Microbiology