WEDNESDAY, Oct. 17, 2018 (HealthDay News) — Clostridium difficile spores are able to survive laundering through a commercial washer extractor, according to a study published online Oct. 16 in Infection Control & Hospital Epidemiology.

Joanna Tarrant, Ph.D., from De Montfort University in Leicester, U.K., and colleagues inoculated C. difficile spores onto cotton sheets, which were laundered through a simulated washer extractor cycle using an industrial bleach detergent. Spore survival was also assessed on hospital sheets naturally contaminated with C. difficile and washed using a washer extractor plus drying and finishing cycles at a commercial laundry.

The researchers found that two strains of C. difficile, NCTC 11209 and ribotype 001/072, survived the simulated washer extractor cycle with an industrial detergent. Naturally contaminated bed sheets had an average spore load of 51 colony forming units (cfu) per 25 cm² before laundering; after washing, drying, and finishing, the spore load was 33 cfu/25 cm². The C. difficile strain was identified as ribotype 001/072 before and after washing. Neither the simulated nor in-situ laundering processes met the micropathological standards of no pathogenic bacteria remaining.

“The findings of this study may explain some sporadic outbreaks of C. difficile infections in hospitals from unknown sources; however, further research is required in order to establish the true burden of hospital bedsheets in such outbreaks,” a coauthor said in a statement.

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