The results of the first ever silver antimicrobial product trial in a nursing home environment, published in the British Journal of Community Nursing, reveal that levels of potentially deadly bacteria can be dramatically reduced using products treated with silver antimicrobial agents, creating cleaner and safer nursing homes for elderly residents across the UK.

As the infection control spotlight turns to independent healthcare and social care establishments, BioCote Ltd is leading the way with a pioneering study that has shown how silver antimicrobial products can reduce bacterial contamination in care environments by an average of 95 per cent.

Wolverhampton-based BioCote Ltd, specialists in antimicrobial technology, included a number of silver antimicrobial products in the refurbishment of a nursing home in Leicester. Products treated with a silver antimicrobial agent look the same as any standard product but are able to reduce bacteria on their surface, such as MRSA, Eli and Salmonella.

As part of the refurbishment, one residence, comprising of a bedroom and bathroom, was refitted with a range of silver antimicrobial treated products while another identical residence was refurbished with untreated, comparable products, to serve as the control. Both units were occupied by single, long term residents for the length of the study and all products in the trial were cleaned according to the same regime, so any levels of decontamination achieved by the antimicrobial products was in addition to the effect of normal cleaning.

During a five-month period swabs were collected from treated and untreated surfaces located in the bedroom and bathroom of each residence and cultured for total counts of bacteria. Results showed that the average difference in bacterial counts between all treated products in the first unit and all untreated products in the control unit ranged from 23 per cent for light switches and electrical sockets to 99 per cent for beds, bins and moulded sheet tiles. The average difference in bacterial counts was 94.8 per cent.

Richard Hastings, BioCote Ltd's microbiologist, commented: "This is another clear signal that BioCote treated products can be used alongside cleaning practices to help sustain low levels of bacteria on surfaces and in the wider healthcare environment. It's of particular relevance to the nursing home sector as they are now required to follow stricter infection prevention and control strategies.

"Since the introduction of the Health and Social Care Act 2008 and new governing body, the Care Quality Commission, there's a clear need and desire to break the chain of cross-contamination between sources of harmful bacteria and patients. With no single solution available, nursing homes across the UK need to invest and it's imperative that industry continues to innovate and provide clinical evidence to prove the effectiveness of their products.

"By investing in peer-reviewed and published studies, we're committed to leading and informing the debate around infection prevention and ensuring that healthcare providers have the information they need to make informed and safe decisions. Products with antimicrobial protection are not the ultimate answer to eliminating bacteria, however, this evidence suggests that they can be part of infection prevention and control strategies, complementing cleaning to reduce the risks of cross-contamination and consequential infection."

"This study shows that bacterial contamination can be reduced by 95 per cent simply by using antimicrobial protected products within the nursing home. It's clear that a reduction in bacterial contamination is a desirable feature of a nursing home environment and in conjunction with strict hygiene procedures, it can help create cleaner and more hygienic surroundings for residents."

The UK's aging population, growing number of chronic geriatric conditions and a shift of care delivery from the acute to residential setting is expanding the role of nursing homes. Just as in hospital settings, outbreaks of MRSA and other harmful bacteria are a continuous threat. Nursing home-acquired infection is complex with a diverse range of contributing factors including chronic illnesses common to residents, recent hospital admission, the presence of healthcare workers, care provided by family members and the regular use of antibiotics.

Products in the trial incorporated silver ion technology from BioCote Ltd. Silver is a safe, natural antimicrobial, commonly used in wound dressings and surface-coated catheters to reduce the risk of infection. BioCote Ltd works with a growing number of manufacturers of healthcare equipment and furniture to incorporate this cutting edge technology into their products at the manufacturing stage. Silver can be incorporated into a variety of materials including plastics, fabrics, paints, powder coatings and papers.

BioCote Ltd

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