Scientists find that washing machines can facilitate the transmission of pathogens

Washing machines can be vectors of pathogenic bacterial transmission: this is what some researchers have found when they analyzed a case of repeated neonatal infections caused by Klebsiella oxytoca in the neonatal intensive care unit of the German pediatric hospital.

The transmission of the virus was actually interrupted when the washing machine was removed from the hospital. The researchers then described this interesting case in a study published in Applied and Environmental Microbiology.

Children were mainly infected by wearing clothes, such as caps or socks, which are used to maintain heat in the incubator. According to the researchers, pathogenic microorganisms are attached to clothing after the washing process through the residual water of the same washing machine or during the final rinsing process, when the water is not heated without detergent.

To make the case even more unusual, as explained by Ricarda M. Schmithausen, one of the researchers involved in the study is the fact that it was a home type washing machine, and this has more implications for the home than for hospitals. The latter, in fact, in addition to this case usually use special washing machines with high-temperature washing processes and special disinfectants. Or they resort to appropriately designated laundries in the open air, which must be subject to various German national hygiene regulations.

Martin Exner, Director of the Institute of Hygiene and Public Health at the University of Bonn, offers, in the case of people who are more prone to infections, such as the elderly or children who are treated at home and who have open wounds or bladder catheters, to wash laundry at the highest possible temperatures and with appropriate use of effective disinfectants.

This can reduce the risk of transmitting pathogens to patients themselves: “This is a growing challenge for hygienists as the number of people being cared for by family members is constantly increasing.”

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Daniel Reed

I am a former professor at Colorado State University in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and the author of several research papers. Now mostly retired, I founded as a hobby to report on some of the scientific discoveries and research going on that I find interesting. Outside of my scientific and working life I also enjoy hiking and bridge.

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