The German hospital’s neonatal ICU was experiencing frequent multidrug-resistant pathogenic infections frequently. Apparently there wasn’t anything to cause an infection on premature’ patients of the unit which was confusing for the investigators. But recently they come up with something shocking that washing machine is full of bacteria, which often introduced resistant pathogenic strains to newborns.
The full case-report is published by the American Society for Microbiology. Click here to read it online.
The long struggle with an unknown cause
All the contamination tests for all health workers inside the incubators were negative. The tests were negative for the healthcare workers who were randomly close to the site. There was an unknown factor behind all this. On the other side, the babies were suffering from Klebsiella oxytoca. It is one of the stubborn bacterium causing a number of hospital-borne infections like pneumonia, UTI’s, soft tissue infection and rarely a certain type of blood poisoning leading to septic shock.
There was nothing clear and then testing the baby clothes gave shocking news. Tracking it back to the laundry room revealed that the washing machine is full of bacteria and it is the root cause of all these infections.
The hospital was using a household energy-saving washing machine. It is different from the industrial level unit, which uses very high temperature and disinfectants. Most of the hospitals use an industrial unit and not the household setup which is why they don’t experience such problems.
The culprit behind all these infections Klebsiella oxytoca bacteria was inside the detergent drawer and on the rubber door seal of the washing machine. The hospital immediately removed the machine and the infections were no more prevalent.
It is fortunate that none of the babies was sick from this risky exposure.
Do all washing machines have harmful bacteria inside them?
Typically the common household units remove dirt and stains from your dirty laundry. However, they do not remove bacteria and fungi from them. To make the laundry germ free, it is necessary to use chlorine and peroxide-based disinfectants. It is normal for all hospitals to follow it along with higher temperature drying settings making the clothes germ-free.
Conversely, there are certain environmental concerns that may affect this washing system. The typical temperature for laundry is something between 86 to 104°F (30 to 40°C). Countries like China, South Korea, and Japan prefer warm to cold water for washing clothes. Also, the US government suggests the same. But many people all around the world prefer washing clothes with hot water.
This looks like a minor thing but this temperature setting shifts from hot to warm water has a drastic effect on energy load. the Department of Energy’s website says that it will show a significant reduction in energy consumed.
The best way to avoid washing machine borne infections
Try following a strict hygiene practice especially to change towels daily. Wash it with warm water and dry it on heat. If there is someone sick at your home, turn the heating up. Wash the clothes with the same warm to cold water but dry them on heat.
The warm drying will not kill any of these germs. It is necessary to raise the drying temperature higher than the normal temperature. For energy saving, try hanging them up outdoors or in direct sunlight. This way the sun serves the purpose and there is no extra cost on the electricity bill.
Do not ignore to thoroughly clean the washer and dryer especially after washing the germy clothes. Make sure to wash all infected clothes at once and then clean the machine with bleach before the next load. This way, the laundry related bacterial infections can be reduced.