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Cervia described the different types of systemic disinfection methods used and the advantages and disadvantages of each.

"Despite the range of technologies being applied, the problem of waterborne microbes in the healthcare setting continues to persist," explained Dr. Cervia. "Each of the systemic methods are limited in their ability to prevent patient exposure to waterborne pathogens because they cannot completely reach and permanently destroy biofilm."

Biofilm is a Key Culprit

Biofilm is a community of numerous types of microbes that attach to internal pipe surfaces, faucets and showerheads where they thrive and multiply. The force of water passing through the pipes or tap can break off fragments of the biofilm transferring it to different parts of the water distribution system and seeding formation of new biofilm colonies.

When water enters a hospital room from a faucet or shower, tiny water droplets containing the biofilm contaminants separate from the main water stream and spread by air currents in all directions. Some of these contaminants are inhaled as aerosols (tiny water droplets containing microbes) or condensed on surfaces where they can be touched.

Many of the bacteria found in biofilm, such as legionella pneumophila, are exhibiting resistance to commonly used water treatment methods as well as to the antibiotics used for treating infected patients. Further complicating the problem, some of these harmful pathogens are also protected by amoeba that are resistant to chlorination, temperature and osmotic pressure. The amoeba acts as a "Trojan Horse" harboring and transporting the microbes. Amoebas with waterborne resistant microorganisms have been recovered from drinking water, cooling towers and water distribution networks in hospitals.

Dr. Cervia presented data on the efficacy of point-of-use 0.2 micron filters to provide a barrier to Legionella and other pathogens to reduce the risks from hospital water.
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