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Wet wipes spread superbugs, new study shows

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because detergent cleaning is advocated in many national guidance documents, it is imperative that such recommendations and guidance take into account the wipe limitations found in this study American Journal of Infection Control

Detergent wet wipes used to clean hospital wards are helping spread deadly superbugs, a new study has revealed. The study discovered that not only were all the wipes tested incredibly poor at removing dangerous pathogenic bacteria, but also that in ‘every instance’ the wet wipes actually spread the superbugs from one surface to another. The Cardiff University scientists said the wipes were ‘not up to the job’ of eliminating superbugs.

NHS guidance is that disinfectants (which kill superbugs) should not be routinely used but detergents (which don’t) should. Detergent wipes are therefore in common use in the NHS as a convenient, ready to-use, disposable solution, but the sole argument supporting their effectiveness in infection control appears to have been that no one has proven they don’t work, therefore they do. Until now, that is.

Which may be why the authors explicitly state “because detergent cleaning is advocated in many national guidance documents, it is imperative that such recommendations and guidance take into account the wipe limitations found in this study.

It is incredibly rare to see such unequivocal language in a scientific paper. But will this new and convincing scientific evidence change policy? Given the Health Secretary supports the use of sham interventions such as homeopathy – which the British Medical Association have described as ‘witchcraft’ and the House of Commons Select Committee on Science and Technology said should not be funded – it would appear unlikely we will see much change any time soon.

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