Health

Washing Machines May Spread Drug-resistant Bacteria That Can Make You Sick

Washing Machines May Spread Drug-resistant Bacteria That Can Make You Sick

A superbug infection in a German hospital was traced to a household type washing machine. Doctors recommended washing at higher temperature or with efficient disinfectants to prevent transmission of pathogens. ( Steve Buissinne | Pixabay )

Washing machines are meant to clean clothes but a new study shows that the device may still harbor drug-resistant bacteria that can pose health risks.

Klebsiella Oxytoca

Doctors in Germany, for instance, think that a washing machine could have helped spread a superbug to newborns and children in a hospital.

According to a case report published in the Journal of Applied and Environmental Microbiology on Friday, a routine sweep at a children's hospital in Western Germany in 2012 found that newborns in the neonatal intensive care unit were carrying a strain of bacteria called Klebsiella oxytoca. The drug resistant bug was also found in a child housed in a pediatric ward.

At least 14 children were eventually found carrying the superbug. The bacteria did not cause any sickness but is known to cause pneumonia, urinary tract infection and wound infections, particularly in individuals with weakened immune systems.

Source Of Infection Traced To Washing Machine

To find out the source of infection, doctors conducted an investigation. They initially thought the superbug was passed from health care workers or the mothers of the newborns, but they eventually traced the source to a household type washing machine used in the hospital.

Hospitals normally use special washing machines and laundry processes that involve washing at high temperature and with disinfectants.

"This is a highly unusual case for a hospital, in that it involved a household type washing machine," commented study researcher Ricarda Schmithausen, from the Institute for Hygiene and Public Health at the University Hospital Bonn, Venusberg-Campus.

Samples from the washer's detergent compartment and rubber door seal tested positive for the bacteria. The transmission stopped when the washing machine was removed from the hospital.

How To Prevent Spread Of Pathogens When Using Washing Machines

The findings have important implications on the kind of washing machine that hospitals should use.

"The use of professional washing machines and the routine check with a temperature logger is an urgent requirement,"Schmithausen and colleagues wrote.

People using household laundry machines also need to take precautions especially when they do laundry for susceptible people. They recommended washing at higher temperature or with efficient disinfectants to prevent transmission of pathogens.