There used to be a time when you would only go to hospital as a last resort. Treatments were so rudimentary and understanding of infection was so poor that a hospital stay was often a death sentence. Even if patients’ initial complaints were treated successfully, their chances of dying from shock or infection were high.
Nowadays, despite the massive advances in medical knowledge and treatments, potentially fatal diseases still stalk the hospital corridors. MRSA and C. difficile cause antibiotic-resistant infections that are becoming more and more commonplace in hospitals around the world.
Medical staff do their best to prevent infection spreading by hand-washing and using sterile equipment, but patients still catch these diseases at depressingly high rates. Now research at the University of Leeds may have explained why.
Bacteria contained in aerosol droplets were released from a heated mannequin in a room set up to simulate a two-bed hospital room. When surfaces were analysed to see how far the droplets carried, they were found up to 3.5 metres away, indicating that bacteria were highly mobile simply by being carried on air currents.
In the earliest days of antiseptic surgery, carbolic acid used to be sprayed in a fine mist around the room. Perhaps an modern day version of this practice throughout all hospital wards isn’t too far away.