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Antimicrobial biocides in the healthcare environment: efficacy, usage, policies, and perceived problems

Authors Jean-Yves Maillard

Published 15 December 2005 Volume 2005:1(4) Pages 307—320


Jean-Yves Maillard

Welsh School of Pharmacy, Cardiff University, Cardiff, Wales, UK

Abstract: Biocides are heavily used in the healthcare environment, mainly for the disinfection of surfaces, water, equipment, and antisepsis, but also for the sterilization of medical devices and preservation of pharmaceutical and medicinal products. The number of biocidal products for such usage continuously increases along with the number of applications, although some are prone to controversies. There are hundreds of products containing low concentrations of biocides, including various fabrics such as linen, curtains, mattresses, and mops that claim to help control infection, although evidence has not been evaluated in practice. Concurrently, the incidence of hospital-associated infections (HAIs) caused notably by bacterial pathogens such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) remains high. The intensive use of biocides is the subject of current debate. Some professionals would like to see an increase in their use throughout hospitals, whereas others call for a restriction in their usage to where the risk of pathogen transmission to patients is high. In addition, the possible linkage between biocide and antibiotic resistance in bacteria and the role of biocides in the emergence of such resistance has provided more controversies in their extensive and indiscriminate usage. When used appropriately, biocidal products have a very important role to play in the control of HAIs. This paper discusses the benefits and problems associated with the use of biocides in the healthcare environment and provides a constructive view on their overall usefulness in the hospital setting.

Keywords: biocides, efficacy, resistance, healthcare

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