Bacterial contamination of inanimate surfaces and equipment in the intensive care unit

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110 Citations (Scopus)


Intensive care unit (ICU)-acquired infections are a challenging health problem worldwide, especially when caused by multidrug-resistant (MDR) pathogens. In ICUs, inanimate surfaces and equipment (e.g., bedrails, stethoscopes, medical charts, ultrasound machine) may be contaminated by bacteria, including MDR isolates. Cross-transmission of microorganisms from inanimate surfaces may have a significant role for ICU-acquired colonization and infections. Contamination may result from healthcare workers' hands or by direct patient shedding of bacteria which are able to survive up to several months on dry surfaces. A higher environmental contamination has been reported around infected patients than around patients who are only colonized and, in this last group, a correlation has been observed between frequency of environmental contamination and culture-positive body sites. Healthcare workers not only contaminate their hands after direct patient contact but also after touching inanimate surfaces and equipment in the patient zone (the patient and his/her immediate surroundings). Inadequate hand hygiene before and after entering a patient zone may result in cross-transmission of pathogens and patient colonization or infection. A number of equipment items and commonly used objects in ICU carry bacteria which, in most cases, show the same antibiotic susceptibility profiles of those isolated from patients. The aim of this review is to provide an updated evidence about contamination of inanimate surfaces and equipment in ICU in light of the concept of patient zone and the possible implications for bacterial pathogen cross-transmission to critically ill patients.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-8
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Intensive Care
Publication statusPublished - 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine

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