18 June 2012

TV remotes a bacterial cocktail

by Will Parker

A study that investigated bacterial populations on hotel room surfaces found television remote controls and housekeeping carts to be amongst the most heavily contaminated items. The researchers behind the work, from the University of Houston, reported their findings yesterday at the 2012 General Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology. The study adds some empirical weight to other ad hoc investigations that have likened hotel rooms to giant petri dishes.

Researcher Katie Kirsch said the current validation method for hotel room cleanliness is a visual assessment, which her findings have shown to be ineffective in measuring levels of sanitation. This, she claims, poses a risk for immunocompromised guests, who are more susceptible to infection. "Identifying high-risk items within a hotel room would allow housekeeping managers to strategically design cleaning practices and allocate time to efficiently reduce the potential health risks posed by microbial contamination," she added.

For the study, Kirsch and her colleagues sampled a variety of surfaces from hotel rooms in Texas, Indiana and South Carolina. They tested the levels of total aerobic bacteria and fecal bacterial contamination on each of the surfaces.

While some of the most contaminated samples, including the toilet and the bathroom sink, were to be expected, they also found high levels of bacterial contamination on the TV remote and bedside switches.

Most concerning, according to Kirsch, some of highest levels of contamination were found in items from the housekeepers' carts, including sponges and mops which pose a risk for cross-contamination of rooms.

"The information derived from this study could aid hotels in adopting a proactive approach for reducing potential hazards from contact with surfaces within hotel rooms and provide a basis for the development of more effective and efficient housekeeping practices," concluded Kirsch.

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Source: American Society for Microbiology