INFECTION PREVENTION APPLICATION EXPERT

Selecting an Ideal Disinfectant

I recently attended Asociación Argentina de Enfermeros en Control de Infecciones (ADECI), an infection prevention-focused congress in Argentina, to discuss the role of the environment in contributing to healthcare associated infections (HAIs). Published studies have provided strong evidence that the environment plays a role in the risk of certain HAIs. Both hand hygiene and disinfection of environmental surfaces are key, as healthcare workers touch an array of objects, people and surfaces throughout the day.

While most healthcare facilities have invested in achieving better hand hygiene compliance, far fewer have focused on the role of environmental surfaces to a similar degree. With more understanding around the spread of microorganisms and proper disinfectant selection, facilities can better protect patients.

Small in size but big threats

Pathogens in the environment are believed to cause HAIs because:

  • They can be detected at levels that can cause infections

  • Many of these pathogens are persistent (can live for long periods of time)

  • These pathogens frequently contaminate surfaces and equipment.

  • Contact with contaminated surfaces can transfer pathogens at levels that can cause infections.

 Thankfully, increased cleaning and disinfection and timely hand hygiene reduces the number of pathogens in the environment and can lower infection rates and/or help end outbreaks.

Properties of an ideal disinfectant

There is no such thing as a “perfect” disinfectant. Disinfectant selection always involves tradeoffs in actual performance versus ideal performance. Several papers theorize about the properties for ideal disinfectant performance. Dr. Rutala lists the following desired properties, which have been grouped to show related properties together:

Efficacy (the cornerstone of compliance

  • Broad spectrum – kills what’s important

  • Fast acting – kills rapidly

  • Remains wet – before surfaces air dry

  • Not affected by environmental factors – soil, temp, etc.

  • Persistence – kills for long period of time

  • Cleaner – strong cleaning to remove bioburden

Safety (the source of user complaints)

  • Nontoxic – low risk to users

  • Surface compatibility – doesn’t damage surfaces

  • Nonflammable – no fire risk

 Convenient to Use (which leads to compliance)

  • Easy to use – no complicated for user

  • Acceptable odor – pleasant for staff and patients

  • Economical – affordable

  • Solubility – mixes with water

  • Stability - not likely to expire on the shelf

Accelerated Hydrogen Peroxide (AHP)

AHP is a patented blend of surfactants, chelants, and low levels of hydrogen peroxide that was developed to deliver better disinfection. These disinfectants offer the best balance of efficacy and safety while delivering sustainability and good cleaning.

Having a disinfectant that works quickly, like AHP-powered disinfectants, is essential because when surfaces dry, efficacy stops. Many disinfectants have contact times longer than the time it takes for the surface to dry. This means that they do not deliver the efficacy the label promises, as the surface must be wet for the entire contact time to deliver the full efficacy.

AHP disinfectants also have an excellent safety profile for users and surfaces. The products can be used without personal protective equipment and are non-corrosive to eyes and skin. They are also highly compatible with a wide range of medical equipment and environmental surfaces, and the hydrogen peroxide in AHP disinfectants breaks down to oxygen and water by the time the surface dries. Lastly, hydrogen peroxide does not build up on surfaces as quats and phenolics do.

The right fit

The environment of care is important and linked to transmission of a number of key pathogens. Thus, healthcare facilities must carefully choose disinfectants that can meet the risks present in the environment.

 What disinfectant is the best fit depends largely on the properties most important to you. Other characteristics that may be considered include sustainability, efficacy against specific pathogens and easy test methods to verify activity level of a solution. Hydrogen peroxide disinfectants with AHP technology deliver excellent efficacy, safety, cleaning, and a strong sustainability story, making them an ideal disinfectant.