Toilet flushing spreads C. diff in hospital bathrooms, study suggests

Closing the toilet lid before flushing may help limit the spread of Clostridium difficile in patient rooms, suggest the findings of a study published in Infection Control & Hospital Epidemiology.

For the study, researchers collected bioaerosol samples from the bathrooms of 24 patients with C. difficile infections at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City.

Samples were taken from the air near toilet rims 20 minutes before and after flushing.

Of 72 samples collected before toilet flushing, 13 percent tested positive for healthcare-associated bacteria. In contrast, 26 percent of samples taken after flushing tested positive for bacteria. The most commonly detected bacteria were Enterococcus faecalis, Enterococcus faecium, and C. difficile.

"Bioaerosols produced by toilet flushing potentially contribute to hospital environmental contamination," researchers concluded. "Prevention measures (eg, toilet lids) should be evaluated as interventions to prevent toilet-associated environmental contamination in clinical settings."

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