Consultants at Lynn’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital have been involved in a major medical breakthrough in the fight against germs – after a study involving a school’s toilet door handle.
And now their findings are to be presented to some of the world’s keenest medical brains at an international conference in the US this summer.
Wisbech Grammar School was used as a testing ground by critical care consultants from the QEH in a partnership that saw a group of senior students from the school – all medical and biological science university applicants – collect data and write up their findings in a paper for publication.
The findings of the joint team are being presented by some of the QEH specialists and students at the International Federation of Environmental Health conference in Las Vegas in July.
The study involved the chemical chlorhexidine (known as CHG for short), which is used in some disinfectants and antiseptics.
Tests on the toilet door handle revealed that CHG remained active for many hours after it was applied – and that germs were impeded from colonising in the meantime, despite the potentially unsanitary environment.
The simple but effective discovery could revolutionise cleaning techniques in the public sector, where toilet door handles are recognised as being one of the ways germs causing diarrhoea and sickness are transmitted from one person to another.
The consultants stumbled across the solution by chance when they were carrying out a laboratory study of the long-term tolerance of their iPads to cleaning products.
The QEH team was led by medical director Dr Mark Blunt and critical care consultant Dr Peter Young.
Dr Young said the hospital’s microbiology laboratory worked closely with the students, analysing results and offering an additional “great educational opportunity”.
The QEH team have already won a Health Watchdog infection control award for their findings related to cleaning of hospital equipment, and they were finalists in last year’s British Medical Journal awards.