Airborne bacteria and fungi are an ongoing problem in hospitals. Because of the antimicrobial activities of essential oils (EOs) dispersion of EOs into the air may help to reduce this contamination. The aim of this study was to evaluate the efficacy of the dispersion of selected EOs in reducing the microbial contamination in two hospital wards. The study was carried out at two wards of a 1,227-bed acute-care hospital in Austria. The concentration of airborne bacteria and fungi was measured in patient rooms before and after dispersion of a mixture of Citrus limon EO and Abies alba EO. Before dispersion of the EOs in both wards the mean concentration of bacteria was in a typical range (123 colony forming units (CFU) m-3 and 104 CFU m-3) while the mean concentration of fungi differed substantially (155 CFU m-3 and 28 CFU m-3). After dispersion of the EOs, a reduction in both bacterial and fungal contamination was observed. In the first two hours the mean concentration of airborne bacteria and fungi was reduced by approximately 40% and 30%-60% respectively. The selected EO mixture is effective in reducing the microbial contamination of the indoor air.
Keywords: Airborne microorganisms; antimicrobial; essential oils.