Feng Y, Wei L, Zhu S Handwashing sinks as the source of transmission of ST16 carbapenem-resistant Klebsiella pneumoniae, an international high-risk clone, in an intensive care unit. J Hosp Infect. 2020; 104:492-496

Ijaz MK, Nims RW, de Szalay S, Rubino JR. Soap, water, and severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2): an ancient handwashing strategy for preventing dissemination of a novel virus. Peer J. 2021; 9

Kelly SA, O'Connell NH, Thompson TP Large-scale characterization of hospital wastewater system microbiomes and clinical isolates from infected patients: profiling of multi-drug-resistant microbial species. J Hosp Infect. 2023; 141:152-166

Kotay S, Chai W, Guilford W Spread from the sink to the patient: in situ study using green fluorescent protein (GFP)-expressing Escherichia coli To model bacterial dispersion from hand-washing sink-trap reservoirs. Appl Environ Microbiol. 2017; 83:e03327-16

Martini M, Lippi D. SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) and the teaching of Ignaz Semmelweis and Florence Nightingale: a lesson of public health from history, after the “Introduction of Handwashing” (1847). J Prev Med. Hyg. 2021; 62:(3)E621-E624

Rodriguez-Mozaz S, Vaz-Moreira I, Giustina SVD Antibiotic residues in final effluents of European wastewater treatment plants and their impact on the aquatic environment. Environ Int. 2020; 140

Handwashing and hospital wastewater systems

25 January 2024
Volume 33 · Issue 2

Hungarian obstetrician Ignác Fülöp Semmelweis is considered to be the father of hand hygiene: in 1847, he demonstrated that the mortality rate among mothers giving birth at the First Obstetrics Clinic at the General Hospital of Vienna fell dramatically when staff washed their hands with a chlorinated lime solution (Martini and Lippi, 2021). They also cite Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing, who wrote in 1860: ‘Every nurse ought to be careful to wash her hands very frequently during the day’ (Martini and Lippi, 2021).

Almost two centuries after the work of Semmelweis and Nightingale the challenge of poor hand hygiene in healthcare premises remains, with Ijaz et al (2021) citing studies documenting the isolation of pathogens from healthcare workers.

For example, Ijaz et al (2021) reported that one investigation found that, when gloves were not worn by healthcare staff, 15% of nurses working in an isolation unit had a median count of 10 000 colony-forming units of Staphylococcus aureus on their hands. Another study found that 21% of doctors and 5% of nurses carried over 1000 colony-forming units of S. aureus on their hands. And yet, despite ‘the potential for healthcare workers to disseminate pathogens via contaminated hands, it has been estimated that these professionals practice hand hygiene fewer [sic] than half the time that they should’ (Ijaz et al, 2021).

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