The inanimate environment of an intensive care unit as a potential source of nosocomial bacteria: evidence for long survival of Acinetobacter calcoaceticus

Infect Control Hosp Epidemiol. 1989 Sep;10(9):402-7. doi: 10.1086/646061.


Environmental surface and personnel hand impression cultures were obtained during 13 sampling periods in the University of Virginia Pediatric Intensive Care Unit to document potential reservoirs of nosocomial pathogens. In 78 environmental cultures Staphylococcus aureus was found eight times and gram-negative bacilli ten times. The patient chart cover was the most commonly contaminated surface. Acinetobacter calcoaceticus was found in five of ten cultures positive for gram-negative bacilli. Thirty of 59 hand cultures were positive for S aureus and gram-negative bacilli; nurses and residents had both, respiratory therapists only gram-negative bacilli, and A calcoaceticus was the most commonly isolated bacterium of potentially nosocomial significance (14/30). Laboratory investigation of bacterial survival revealed that gram-negative bacilli survived on a dry formica surface from a few hours up to three days but Acinetobacter survived up to 13 days. Since A calcoaceticus has been implicated in many nosocomial infections, its long survival on a dry surface may be an additional factor in its transmission in hospitals and suggests that more attention be paid to environmental surfaces as a source of significant nosocomial pathogens.

MeSH terms

  • Acinetobacter / growth & development
  • Acinetobacter / isolation & purification*
  • Acinetobacter / pathogenicity
  • Cross Infection / etiology
  • Cross Infection / prevention & control
  • Environmental Microbiology*
  • Hand Disinfection
  • Health Workforce
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units, Pediatric*
  • Virginia