Drug-resistant bacteria may thrive in certain hospital sink drains, study finds

Hospital sinks stationed near toilets in patient rooms may act as reservoirs for Klebsiella pneumoniae carbapenemase-producing bacteria, according to a study published in the American Journal of Infection Control.

Researchers conducted the study in a 26-bed medical intensive care unit at a 600-bed hospital in Milwaukee. The rooms have an open-concept design, with a sink by the door and a second sink stationed next to a toilet. Researchers took specimen samples from every sink drain in the MICU.

A majority (87 percent) of sinks next to toilets tested positive for KPC, compared to 21.7 percent of sinks located near the door. Of the five rooms where the sink near the door tested positive, the sink near the toilet also tested positive in four rooms. The hospital unit did not report any carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae infections in the past year, meaning KPC may persist long term in sinks.

"This study, if validated, could have major implications for infection control," study authors Blake Buchan, PhD, and Silvia Munoz-Price, MD, PhD, said in a press release. "If sinks next to toilets are indeed a reservoir for KPC, additional interventions — such as modified hand hygiene practices and sink disinfection protocols — may be needed to stem the risk of transmission among healthcare providers and patients alike."

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