Intrinsic bacterial burden associated with intensive care unit hospital beds: effects of disinfection on population recovery and mitigation of potential infection risk

Am J Infect Control. 2012 Dec;40(10):907-12. doi: 10.1016/j.ajic.2011.11.019. Epub 2012 Feb 22.


Background: Commonly touched items are likely reservoirs from which patients, health care workers, and visitors may encounter and transfer microbes. A quantitative assessment was conducted of the risk represented by the intrinsic bacterial burden associated with bed rails in a medical intensive care unit (MICU), and how disinfection might mitigate this risk.

Methods: Bacteria present on the rails from 36 patient beds in the MICU were sampled immediately before cleaning and at 0.5, 2.5, 4.5, and 6.5 hours after cleaning. Beds were sanitized with either a bottled disinfectant (BD; CaviCide) or an automated bulk-diluted disinfectant (ABDD; Virex II 256).

Results: The majority of bacteria recovered from the bed rails in the MICU were staphylococci, but not methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. Vancomycin-resistant enterococci were recovered from 3 beds. Bottled disinfectant reduced the average bacterial burden on the rails by 99%. However, the burden rebounded to 30% of that found before disinfection by 6.5 hours after disinfection. ABDD reduced the burden by an average of 45%, but levels rebounded within 2.5 hours. The effectiveness of both disinfectants was reflected in median reductions to burden of 98% for BD and 95% for ABDD.

Conclusions: Cleaning with hospital-approved disinfectants reduced the intrinsic bacterial burden on bed rail surfaces by up to 99%, although the population, principally staphylococci, rebounded quickly to predisinfection levels.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Bacteria / isolation & purification*
  • Bacterial Infections / prevention & control*
  • Bacterial Load*
  • Beds / microbiology*
  • Disinfection / methods*
  • Hospitals
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units