Almost every week problems related to Hospital acquired infections (HAI) are highlighted in media, and the awareness in society has recently increased significantly. Efforts to reduce the spreading of infections have focused on hand hygiene. Much have been done but still the proportion of patients with HAI is consistently high (about 9%) [SKF].
Local initiatives to reduce the prevalence of HAI have shown effects, but there has been no major improvement at the national level. In Örebro new cleaning procedures reduced the number of C. difficile infections by over 50% [Läkart. 2014; 111: CIIL]. At Capio St. Göran’s Hospital, where cleaning is a prioritized area, the prevalence of HAI is significantly lower than both nationally and in Stockholm City Council (SLL). An ongoing UDI project, Innovation against infection, has pointed out problems with routines in the health care system and that these are not always followed, which may increase the risk of infection. Second to contact transmission via hands, clothing is the most significant infection transmission route. The spread of trace particles and bacteria between hospital rooms is about 50 times higher via health care staff clothing than through the air, and in a study from 2011 it was found that over 60% of staff clothes were colonized with pathogenic bacteria [Weiner-Well, AJIC, 39]. Spread of infection between patients may also occur via skin particles transported by staff clothing. Particularly, staff uniforms have been shown to cause spread of MRSA [Osawa, JIC, 2003]. It has also been shown that effective cleaning has a major effect on HAI [Dancer, EJoCMIC, 30,12,1473].
I-tex is a new project within the VINNOVA program Challenge Driven Innovation (UDI). The project aims to decrease HAI through modifying textile materials with environmentally sustainable bacterial inhibition technologies and innovative probiotic technology combined with expertise in health care systems. By adding good bacteria to different environments, pathogenic bacteria can be outcompeted and the local environment become healthier [Falagas et.al., J of Hosp Inf, 2009,71,301]. Where and how such techniques can be used will be a key issue for the project. As textiles represent about 90% of the contact area in close vicinity of a patient, the cleanliness of these surfaces plays an important role for patient recovery. One of the key questions is therefore: can we reduce the spread of infection and bacterial burden, particularly for vulnerable populations such as children in neonatal units, burn victims and patients with compromised immune systems, by applying innovative textiles? We believe that a broader approach, including both development of innovative materials and behavioral knowledge, may be what is needed.