Hospital elevator buttons hide more germs than toilets

Hospital elevator buttons hide more germs than toilets
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Elevator buttons are more likely to be colonised by bacteria than toilet surfaces, a new study of three large urban hospitals in Canada has found

Toronto: Elevator buttons are more likely to be colonised by bacteria than toilet surfaces, a new study of three large urban hospitals in Canada has found. "Elevators are a component of modern hospital care, and are used by multiple people with ungloved hands who will later go on to make contact with patients," said Dr Donald Redelmeier, University of Toronto professor and co-author of the study.

In the study, 120 randomly selected interior and exterior elevator buttons were swabbed over a ten-day period at each hospital. These were compared against swabs of toilet surfaces in men's washrooms, including exterior and interior entry-door handles, the privacy latch and the toilet flusher.

Sixty-one per cent of the elevator button samples showed microbiological growth, compared to only 43 per cent of the toilet surface samples.
Bacteria cultured from the elevator buttons and toilet surfaces included Staphylococcus, Streptococcus, coliform (or bowel) bacteria, Enterococcus and Pseudomonas, though they are unlikely to cause specific diseases in most cases, researchers said. "We were surprised by the frequency of bacterial colonisation on the elevator buttons, but we were also struck by how easily it could be avoided, specifically by the use of good hand washing or hand hygiene," said co-author Dr Andrew
Simor, a professor of Medicine and of Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology at U of T and chief, department of microbiology and infectious diseases at Sunnybrook. The authors suggest several strategies for reducing the frequency of bacterial colonisation on commonly touched surfaces.
"Use alcohol-based hand sanitiser before and afte touching the buttons, or avoid touching them altogether by using the tip of a pen or your elbow," said lead author Dr Christopher Kandel, a fellow, department of infectious diseases, at U of T. The study was published in Open Medicine Journal.
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