Transmission of Staphylococcus aureus from dry surface biofilm (DSB) via different types of gloves

Shamaila Tahir*, Durdana Chowdhury, Mark Legge, Honghua Hu, Greg Whiteley, Trevor Glasbey, Anand K. Deva, Karen Vickery

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    10 Citations (Scopus)


    Background: Pathogens can survive for extended periods when incorporated into biofilm on dry hospital surfaces (ie, dry-surface biofilm, DSB). Bacteria within biofilm are protected from desiccation and have increased tolerance to cleaning agents and disinfectants. Objective: We hypothesized that gloved hands of healthcare personnel (HCP) become contaminated with DSB bacteria and hence may transmit bacteria associated with healthcare-associated infections (HAIs).Method Staphylococcus aureus DSB was grown in vitro on coupons in a bioreactor over 12 days with periodic nutrition interspersed with long periods of dehydration. Each coupon had ∼107 DSB bacterial cells. Transmission was tested with nitrile, latex, and surgical gloves by gripping DSB-covered coupons then pressing finger tips onto a sterile horse blood agar surface for up to 19 consecutive touches and counting the number of colony-forming units (CFU) transferred. Coupons were immersed in 5% neutral detergent to simulate cleaning, and the experiment was repeated. Results: Bacterial cells were readily transmitted by all 3 types of gloves commonly used by HCP. Surprisingly, sufficient S. aureus to cause infection were transferred from 1 DSB touch up to 19 consecutive touches. Also, 6 times more bacteria were transferred by nitrile and surgical gloves than to latex gloves (P <.001). Treating the DSB with 5% neutral detergent increased the transmission rate of DSB bacteria 10-fold. Conclusion: Staphylococcus aureus incorporated into environmental DSB and covered by extracellular polymeric substances readily contaminates gloved hands and can be transferred to another surface. These results confirm the possibility that DSB contributes to HAI acquisition.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)60-64
    Number of pages5
    JournalInfection Control and Hospital Epidemiology
    Issue number1
    Early online date13 Nov 2018
    Publication statusPublished - Jan 2019


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