Nosocomial infections

Study finds stainless steel beats plastic in combating bacteria

Nosocomial infections are all too common in our hospitals. For example, in Germany alone (according to the German Company for Hospital Hygiene - Deutsche Gesellschaft für Krankenhaushygiene), each year 40,000 patients contract bacterial infections, some fatal.

Markus Braun
Markus Braun

Reasons are not only attributed to shortcomings in medical or nursing care, but also by the use of materials that should never be used in hospitals – among them, plastic. Where stainless steel replaces plastic the mortality rate of bacteria rises enormously.

In comparative tests conducted by research scientists Professor Wolfgang Wildfuhr and Dr Annerose Seidel, at the Hygiene Institute at the University of Leipzig, a range of micro-organisms, such as bacteria found in wet and dry environments, and pathogenic fungi including escherichia coli, the bacterium responsible for smear infections, were examined in detail.

The purpose was to determine the materials on which the pathogens survived to greater or lesser degrees. The team’s conclusion was that the survival rate of the bacteria and other pathogens was twice as high on plastic as on stainless steel or glass. The study was commissioned by Hans Hergert, owner of Frelu, a firm that produces utensils for hospitals and care homes.

The disposal of faeces in hospitals represents a particular hazard. Markus Braun, left, chairman of the German Healthcare Export Group, said that, for public health reasons, stainless steel and nothing else should be used everywhere where large numbers of people are cared for, particularly when excreta disposal is necessary. Stainless steel is easy to clean and recycle, which is certainly not the case with plastic.


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