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1.  Potential for airborne transmission of infection in the waiting areas of healthcare premises: stochastic analysis using a Monte Carlo model 
BMC Infectious Diseases  2010;10:247.
Background
Although many infections that are transmissible from person to person are acquired through direct contact between individuals, a minority, notably pulmonary tuberculosis (TB), measles and influenza are known to be spread by the airborne route. Airborne infections pose a particular threat to susceptible individuals whenever they are placed together with the index case in confined spaces. With this in mind, waiting areas of healthcare facilities present a particular challenge, since large numbers of people, some of whom may have underlying conditions which predispose them to infection, congregate in such spaces and can be exposed to an individual who may be shedding potentially pathogenic microorganisms. It is therefore important to understand the risks posed by infectious individuals in waiting areas, so that interventions can be developed to minimise the spread of airborne infections.
Method
A stochastic Monte Carlo model was constructed to analyse the transmission of airborne infection in a hypothetical 132 m3 hospital waiting area in which occupancy levels, waiting times and ventilation rate can all be varied. In the model the Gammaitoni-Nucci equation was utilized to predict probability of susceptible individuals becoming infected. The model was used to assess the risk of transmission of three infectious diseases, TB, influenza and measles. In order to allow for stochasticity a random number generator was applied to the variables in the model and a total of 10000 individual simulations were undertaken. The mean quanta production rates used in the study were 12.7, 100 and 570 per hour for TB, influenza and measles, respectively.
Results
The results of the study revealed the mean probability of acquiring a TB infection during a 30-minute stay in the waiting area to be negligible (i.e. 0.0034), while that for influenza was an order of magnitude higher at 0.0262. By comparison the mean probability of acquiring a measles infection during the same period was 0.1349. If the duration of the stay was increased to 60 minutes then these values increased to 0.0087, 0.0662 and 0.3094, respectively.
Conclusion
Under normal circumstances the risk of acquiring a TB infection during a visit to a hospital waiting area is minimal. Likewise the risks associated with the transmission of influenza, although an order of magnitude greater than those for TB, are relatively small. By comparison, the risks associated with measles are high. While the installation of air disinfection may be beneficial, when seeking to prevent the transmission of airborne viral infection it is important to first minimize waiting times and the number of susceptible individuals present before turning to expensive technological solutions.
doi:10.1186/1471-2334-10-247
PMCID: PMC2939637  PMID: 20727178
2.  Effect of negative air ions on the potential for bacterial contamination of plastic medical equipment 
Background
In recent years there has been renewed interest in the use of air ionizers to control the spread of infection in hospitals and a number of researchers have investigated the biocidal action of ions in both air and nitrogen. By comparison, the physical action of air ions on bacterial dissemination and deposition has largely been ignored. However, there is clinical evidence that air ions might play an important role in preventing the transmission of Acinetobacter infection. Although the reasons for this are unclear, it is hypothesized that a physical effect may be responsible: the production of air ions may negatively charge items of plastic medical equipment so that they repel, rather than attract, airborne bacteria. By negatively charging both particles in the air and items of plastic equipment, the ionizers minimize electrostatic deposition on these items. In so doing they may help to interrupt the transmission of Acinetobacter infection in certain healthcare settings such as intensive care units.
Methods
A study was undertaken in a mechanically ventilated room under ambient conditions to accurately measure changes in surface potential exhibited by items of plastic medical equipment in the presence of negative air ions. Plastic items were suspended on nylon threads, either in free space or in contact with a table surface, and exposed to negative ions produced by an air ionizer. The charge build-up on the specimens was measured using an electric field mill while the ion concentration in the room air was recorded using a portable ion counter.
Results
The results of the study demonstrated that common items of equipment such as ventilator tubes rapidly developed a large negative charge (i.e. generally >-100V) in the presence of a negative air ionizer. While most items of equipment tested behaved in a similar manner to this, one item, a box from a urological collection and monitoring system (the only item made from styrene acrylonitrile), did however develop a positive charge in the presence of the ionizer.
Conclusion
The findings of the study suggest that the action of negative air ionizers significantly alters the electrostatic landscape of the clinical environment, and that this has the potential to cause any Acinetobacter-bearing particles in the air to be strongly repelled from some plastic surfaces and attracted to others. In so doing, this may prevent critical items of equipment from becoming contaminated with the bacterium.
doi:10.1186/1471-2334-10-92
PMCID: PMC2873555  PMID: 20384999
3.  How does healthcare worker hand hygiene behaviour impact upon the transmission of MRSA between patients?: an analysis using a Monte Carlo model 
Background
Good hand hygiene has for many years been considered to be the most important measure that can be applied to prevent the spread of healthcare-associated infection (HAI). Continuous emphasis on this intervention has lead to the widespread opinion that HAI rates can be greatly reduced by increased hand hygiene compliance alone. However, this assumes that the effectiveness of hand hygiene is not constrained by other factors and that improved compliance in excess of a given level, in itself, will result in a commensurate reduction in the incidence of HAI. However, there is evidence that the law of diminishing returns applies to hand hygiene, with the greatest benefits occurring in the first 20% or so of compliance. While this raises intriguing questions about the extent to which increasing compliance alone can further reduce rates of HAI, analysis of this subject has been hampered by a lack of quantifiable data relating to the risk of transmission between patients on wards.
Methods
In order to gain a greater understanding of the transmission of infection between patients via the hands of healthcare workers (HCWs), we constructed a stochastic Monte Carlo model to simulate the spread of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) between patients. We used the model to calculate the risk of transmission occurring, firstly between two patients in adjacent beds, and then between patients in a four-bedded bay. The aim of the study was to quantify the probability of transmission under a variety of conditions and thus to gain an understanding of the contribution made by the various factors which influence transmission.
Results
The study revealed that on a four-bedded bay, the average probability of transmitting an infection by the handborne route is generally low (i.e. in the region 0.002 – 0.013 depending on the hand hygiene behaviour of HCWs and other factors). However, because transmission is strongly influenced by stochastic events, it is the frequency with which 'high-risk events' occur, rather than average probability, that governs whether or not transmission will take place. The study revealed that increased hand hygiene compliance has a dramatic impact on the frequency with which 'high-risk events' occur. As compliance increases, so the rate at which 'high-risk events' occur, rapidly decreases, until a point is reached, beyond which, further hand hygiene is unlikely to yield any greater benefit.
Conclusion
The findings of the study confirm those of other researchers and suggest that the greatest benefits derived from hand hygiene occur as a result of the first tranche of compliance, with higher levels (>50%) of hand hygiene events yielding only marginal benefits. This suggests that in most situations relatively little benefit is accrued from seeking to achieve very high levels of hand hygiene compliance.
doi:10.1186/1471-2334-9-64
PMCID: PMC2689235  PMID: 19445655
4.  Increasing the frequency of hand washing by healthcare workers does not lead to commensurate reductions in staphylococcal infection in a hospital ward 
Background
Hand hygiene is generally considered to be the most important measure that can be applied to prevent the spread of healthcare-associated infection (HAI). Continuous emphasis on this intervention has lead to the widespread opinion that HAI rates can be greatly reduced by increased hand hygiene compliance alone. However, this assumes that the effectiveness of hand hygiene is not constrained by other factors and that improved compliance in excess of a given level, in itself, will result in a commensurate reduction in the incidence of HAI. However, several researchers have found the law of diminishing returns to apply to hand hygiene, with the greatest benefits occurring in the first 20% or so of compliance, and others have demonstrated that poor cohorting of nursing staff profoundly influences the effectiveness of hand hygiene measures. Collectively, these findings raise intriguing questions about the extent to which increasing compliance alone can further reduce rates of HAI.
Methods
In order to investigate these issues further, we constructed a deterministic Ross-Macdonald model and applied it to a hypothetical general medical ward. In this model the transmission of staphylococcal infection was assumed to occur after contact with the transiently colonized hands of HCWs, who, in turn, acquire contamination only by touching colonized patients. The aim of the study was to evaluate the impact of imperfect hand cleansing on the transmission of staphylococcal infection and to identify, whether there is a limit, above which further hand hygiene compliance is unlikely to be of benefit.
Results
The model demonstrated that if transmission is solely via the hands of HCWs, it should, under most circumstances, be possible to prevent outbreaks of staphylococcal infection from occurring at a hand cleansing frequencies < 50%, even with imperfect hand hygiene. The analysis also indicated that the relationship between hand cleansing efficacy and frequency is not linear – as efficacy decreases, so the hand cleansing frequency required to ensure R0 < 1 increases disproportionately.
Conclusion
Although our study confirmed hand hygiene to be an effective control measure, it demonstrated that the law of diminishing returns applies, with the greatest benefit derived from the first 20% or so of compliance. Indeed, our analysis suggests that there is little benefit to be accrued from very high levels of hand cleansing and that in most situations compliance > 40% should be enough to prevent outbreaks of staphylococcal infection occurring, if transmission is solely via the hands of HCWs. Furthermore we identified a non-linear relationship between hand cleansing efficacy and frequency, suggesting that it is important to maximise the efficacy of the hand cleansing process.
doi:10.1186/1471-2334-8-114
PMCID: PMC2553083  PMID: 18764942
5.  Aerial Dissemination of Clostridium difficile spores 
Background
Clostridium difficile-associated diarrhoea (CDAD) is a frequently occurring healthcare-associated infection, which is responsible for significant morbidity and mortality amongst elderly patients in healthcare facilities. Environmental contamination is known to play an important contributory role in the spread of CDAD and it is suspected that contamination might be occurring as a result of aerial dissemination of C. difficile spores. However previous studies have failed to isolate C. difficile from air in hospitals. In an attempt to clarify this issue we undertook a short controlled pilot study in an elderly care ward with the aim of culturing C. difficile from the air.
Methods
In a survey undertaken during February (two days) 2006 and March (two days) 2007, air samples were collected using a portable cyclone sampler and surface samples collected using contact plates in a UK hospital. Sampling took place in a six bedded elderly care bay (Study) during February 2006 and in March 2007 both the study bay and a four bedded orthopaedic bay (Control). Particulate material from the air was collected in Ringer's solution, alcohol shocked and plated out in triplicate onto Brazier's CCEY agar without egg yolk, but supplemented with 5 mg/L of lysozyme. After incubation, the identity of isolates was confirmed by standard techniques. Ribotyping and REP-PCR fingerprinting were used to further characterise isolates.
Results
On both days in February 2006, C. difficile was cultured from the air with 23 samples yielding the bacterium (mean counts 53 – 426 cfu/m3 of air). One representative isolate from each of these was characterized further. Of the 23 isolates, 22 were ribotype 001 and were indistinguishable on REP-PCR typing. C. difficile was not cultured from the air or surfaces of either hospital bay during the two days in March 2007.
Conclusion
This pilot study produced clear evidence of sporadic aerial dissemination of spores of a clone of C. difficile, a finding which may help to explain why CDAD is so persistent within hospitals and difficult to eradicate. Although preliminary, the findings reinforce concerns that current C. difficile control measures may be inadequate and suggest that improved ward ventilation may help to reduce the spread of CDAD in healthcare facilities.
doi:10.1186/1471-2334-8-7
PMCID: PMC2245947  PMID: 18218089

Results 1-5 (5)