There is increasing interest in the role of cleaning for managing hospital-acquired infections (HAI). Pathogens such as vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE), methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), multiresistant Gram-negative bacilli, norovirus, and Clostridium difficile persist in the health care environment for days. Both detergent- and disinfectant-based cleaning can help control these pathogens, although difficulties with measuring cleanliness have compromised the quality of published evidence. Traditional cleaning methods are notoriously inefficient for decontamination, and new approaches have been proposed, including disinfectants, steam, automated dispersal systems, and antimicrobial surfaces. These methods are difficult to evaluate for cost-effectiveness because environmental data are not usually modeled against patient outcome. Recent studies have reported the value of physically removing soil using detergent, compared with more expensive (and toxic) disinfectants. Simple cleaning methods should be evaluated against nonmanual disinfection using standardized sampling and surveillance. Given worldwide concern over escalating antimicrobial resistance, it is clear that more studies on health care decontamination are required. Cleaning schedules should be adapted to reflect clinical risk, location, type of site, and hand touch frequency and should be evaluated for cost versus benefit for both routine and outbreak situations. Forthcoming evidence on the role of antimicrobial surfaces could supplement infection prevention strategies for health care environments, including those targeting multidrug-resistant pathogens.
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