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Legionella control still remains a critical issue in healthcare settings where the preferred approach to health risk assessment and management is to develop a water safety plan. We report the experience of a university hospital, where a water safety plan has been applied since 2002, and the results obtained with the application of different methods for disinfecting hot water distribution systems in order to provide guidance for the management of water risk.
The disinfection procedures included continuous chlorination with chlorine dioxide (0.4–0.6 mg/L in recirculation loops) reinforced by endpoint filtration in critical areas and a water treatment based on monochloramine (2-3 mg/L). Real-time polymerase chain reaction and a new immunoseparation and adenosine triphosphate bioluminescence analysis were applied in environmental monitoring.
After 9 years, the integrated disinfection-filtration strategy significantly reduced positive sites by 55% and the mean count by 78% (P < .05); however, the high costs and the occurrence of a chlorine-tolerant clone belonging to Legionella pneumophila ST269 prompted us to test a new disinfectant. The shift to monochloramine allowed us to eliminate planktonic Legionella and did not require additional endpoint filtration; however, nontuberculous mycobacteria were isolated more frequently as long as the monochloramine concentration was 2 mg/L; their cultivability was never regained by increasing the concentration up to 3 mg/L.
Any disinfection method needs to be adjusted/fine-tuned in individual hospitals in order to maintain satisfactory results over time, and only a locally adapted evidence-based approach allows assessment of the efficacy and disadvantages of the control measures.
Our aim was to evaluate the impact of aerators on water microbiological contamination in at-risk hospital departments, with a view to quantifying the possible risk of patient exposure to waterborne microorganisms.
We analyzed the microbiological and chemical-physical characteristics of hot and cold water in some critical hospital departments.
Two hospitals in northern Italy.
We took 304 water samples over a 1-year period, at 3-month intervals, from taps used by healthcare personnel for handwashing, surgical washing, and the washing of medical equipment. We analyzed heterotrophic plate counts (HPCs) at 36°C and 22°C, nonfastidious gram-negative bacteria (GNB-NE), and Legionella pneumophila.
The percentages of positivity and mean values of HPCs at 22°C, HPCs at 36°C, and GNB-NE loads were significantly higher at outlet points than in the plumbing system. In particular, GNB-NE positivity was higher at outlet points than in the plumbing system in both the cold water (31.58% vs 6.58% of samples were positive) and hot water (21.05% vs 3.95%) supplies. Our results also revealed contamination by L. pneumophila both in the plumbing system and at outlet points, with percentages of positive samples varying according to the serogroup examined (serogroups 1 and 2-14). The mean concentrations displayed statistically significant (P < .001) differences between the outlet points (27,382.89 ± 42,245.33 colony-forming units [cfu]/L) and the plumbing system (19,461.84 ± 29,982.11 cfu/L).
These results reveal a high level of contamination of aerators by various species of gram-negative opportunists that are potentially very dangerous for immunocompromised patients and, therefore, the need to improve the management of these devices.
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