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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Arizona Tracks Spread of Infectious Microbes during Emergency Medical Response

A study by researchers from the University of Arizona Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health suggests that firefighters’ hands were the main vehicles of microbial transfer during actual emergency medical service (EMS) activities. The study is published in the American Journal of Infection Control.

The researchers used a bacteriophage surrogate for pathogenic organisms to identify contributors to EMS environment contamination and development of infection control strategies. Bacteriophage ΦX174 was used to trace cross-contamination and evaluate current disinfection practices and a hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) wipe intervention within emergency response vehicles. Prior to EMS calls, two surfaces were seeded with ΦX174. On call completion, EMS vehicle and equipment surfaces were sampled before decontamination, after decontamination per current practices, and after implementation of the intervention.

Current decontamination practices did not significantly reduce viral loads on surfaces (P = .3113), but H2O2 wipe intervention did (P = .0065). Bacteriophage spread to 56 percent (27/48) of sites and was reduced to 54 percent (26/48) and 40 percent (19/48) with current decontamination practices and intervention practices, respectively.

Results suggest firefighters’ hands were the main vehicles of microbial transfer. Current practices were not consistently applied or standardized and minimally reduced prevalence and quantity of microbial contamination on EMS surfaces. Although use of a consistent protocol of H2O2 wipes significantly reduced percent prevalence and concentration of viruses, training and promotion of surface disinfection should be provided