Welcome to Professional and Technical Services (PTS) – experts in chemical disinfection for infection prevention. Our goal is to educate and provide you the latest resources related to cleaning and disinfection of environmental surfaces, medical devices and hands. As specialists in disinfectant chemistries, microbiology, environmental cleaning and disinfection, facility assessments and policy and procedure creation we are dedicated to helping any person or facility who uses chemical disinfectants.

Our expertise is utilized by Infection Preventionists, Public Health Experts, First Responders, Dentists, Physicians, Nurses, Veterinarians, Aestheticians, Environmental Services professionals and janitorial product distributors to develop more sustainable cleaning and disinfection practices in North America.

Our commitment to providing chemical disinfectant education is more than business, it is a passion.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Disinfectants cause obesity?


I’m female.  Of course I have been on a diet.  I don’t exactly come from “skinny” stock, but after years of trying (successfully or not) to maintain a healthy weight I’ve come to the realization that any weight issues I have are not my fault.  They are my mothers due to her overuse of disinfectants when I was a child.

Or at least that is how I could interpret my battle with the bulge after reading a study recently published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.  According to the study, the use of household disinfectants could increase the risk of children becoming overweight by altering the makeup of their gut bacteria (their microbiome) during the first few months of life.  As our understanding of infection prevention improves, so to does our use of hand sanitizers and disinfectants.  
In a blog from 2014, I talked about a study showing that different homes harboured different populations of bugs and that these populations closely matched the microbiomes of the residents.  As disinfectants and hand sanitizers are agents that are designed to kill microbes (good or bad), in theory the concept that the use of disinfectants could impact our microbiome is plausible. 

The study looked at over 750 infants and while I will not get into the specifics of what gut microbiota increased or decreased, suffice it to say, the researchers concluded that exposure to household disinfectants was associated with higher BMI at age 3 and that children were less prone to being overweight in households that cleaned with eco-friendly products.

With cold and flu season virtually upon us, it’s important not to jump to conclusions.  The researchers did note that there were a number of limitations in their study.   For example, the status of infant exposure to cleaning agents was assumed from parent report meaning recall bias is a very likely possibility.  The study did not differentiate cleaning products by brand name or the presence of specific ingredients meaning the results lumping every active ingredient together and not accounting for the known health and safety issues with some active ingredients.  Further, the eco-friendly products did not list ingredients on their labels.  Lastly, the gut microbiota was from a single point in time nor did they account for any interventions in the child’s life (e.g. exposure to antibiotics) that may have occurred during this time.

What does this all mean?  Well, we know that chemicals found in common cleaners and disinfectants can have negative impacts on our health such as asthma or cancer.  We know that the purpose of disinfectants is to kill indescriminantly meaning that there can be the opportunity for “bad” bacteria to overpower “good” bacteria.   We also know the same is true with the use of antibiotics.

My conclusion is that the study is interesting, but further studies are required to better understand the mechanisms through which disinfectants or cleaning products may alter our micrbiome and what that change may have on our health.


Bugging Off!

Nicole




Friday, September 14, 2018

Do you need to declare hitchhikers after using airport security bins?


Travelling can be fun, particularly if you’re heading off on vacation.  Perhaps a little stressful when travelling with a family, but once you get through the hurdles of security and customs it’s generally smooth sailing.  For most, security and customs is the most stressful part of the trip.  You’re stuck in lines.  You never know when you’re going to pull the dreaded “SSSS” card and get to have a complete search; body, shoes and luggage.  You’re inches behind the person in front of you and only have inches between you and the person who happens to be breathing down your back.  If you’re really lucky, the people in front of you are leaving on their honeymoon and can’t keep their hands or mouths off of each other.  While I prescribe that PDA’s are not needed at any time of the day, I particularly have no interest in observing prior to 9am in the morning...

I’ve written previous Talk Clean To Me blogs about the perils of travel and the fact that bugs can be found on everyone and anywhere.  If you want or need a refresher of how gross travelling on planes can be, you can check out I’m leaving on a jet plane and I fly, you fly we all share bugs together.   We all know that the plane itself can be a hotspot for picking up bugs, and due to the lack of hand hygiene, bathrooms, elevator buttons, hand rails etc. can be contaminated. However, have you thought about the level of contamination on one of the first items we touch at airports?  After we get our tickets, where do we line up?  Security.  What happens there?  We stand in line with 100’s of other people.  What do people have in common?  We carry or may be carrying germs.

A new study published by researchers from Finland and Britain found that half of the grey plastic airport security bins may be carrying infectious viruses.  The researchers took environmental swabs and tested them for influenza A and B viruses, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), adenovirus, rhinovirus and coronaviruses (e.g. SARS and MERS).  Of the 90 environmental samples taken in total, 8 were from the grey bins.  While a very small sample size, 4 of the 8 were found to have respiratory viruses while none of the 42 samples taken around toilets showed any sign of the viruses. 

Similar to any commonly touched surface, this really shouldn’t be surprising.  At Toronto Pearson Airport about 1,100 flights take off per day.  If you consider that the smallest plane only carries around 14 people and the largest carries 525 people, there are a WHOLE LOT of people going through security and using the grey bins.   Where people congregate, germs are sure to be found.   It’s unrealistic to think that the bins are going to be cleaned and disinfected between uses.  An airport is not a hospital.  We can hope that they are cleaned daily, but the likelihood is that they’re only cleaned when visibly dirty.  It’s up to us to protect ourselves.  Wash your hands or use the hand sanitizer that is very likely hanging on your briefcase, your purse or laying at the bottom of your bag.


Bugging Off!

Nicole

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Are hand sanitizers losing their battle with bugs?


With the start of school most of us are preprogrammed to believe that summer is over.  Summer is a time of indulgence, a time to let your hair down and enjoy.  Unfortunately for some of us that means come fall our clothes may fit a bit differently than the last time we wore them!  We’ve lost the battle to the bulge.

What other battles are we loosing as we go about our daily routines?  I think we can all agree that hand sanitizers have become a staple in our lives.  They’re in our children’s lunch bags, in our purses, attached to our briefcases and probably stashed in places we’ve forgotten about.  It’s because of this rampant use of hand sanitizers that a recently published study I came across is so interesting.  Conducted by a group of researchers in Australia, Increasing tolerance of hospital Enterococcus faecium to hand-wash alcohols” is something you may want to read.

Antibiotic resistance is a well-known phenomenon.  It occurred as a result of widespread and overuse of antibiotics prescribed to patients.  With hand sanitizers moving to mainstream use within the community and not just in healthcare facilities have we potentially repeated history and will start to see resistance of pathogens of concern to hand sanitizers?  According to this study that very well may be the case.  The study investigated 139 samples of Enterococcus faecium.  The samples were subjected to different strengths of alcohol ranging from 23% to 70%. The samples had been taken over a 19 year period (1997 – 2015) and they found that samples from 2010 on were 10 times more resistant to alcohol.  Could this be in part an explanation to the increased numbers of HAIs associated with Enterococci?  The development of resistance to hand sanitizers would certainly complicate our infection control practices.  Additional measures or procedures would need to be put into place to reduce the risk of further resistance development.

Before we cry wolf, this is the first study to show such an occurrence.  While both interesting and concerning we can’t jump to conclusions.  That said, I hope that we have learned from our past mistakes and take a more serious look to determine if this truly is happening and if it’s happening on a global basis we seriously contemplate what we need to do to slow the resistant development down.  Enterococci are as we know widely resistant to multiple antibiotics.  Hand hygiene and surface disinfection is our first line of defense when it comes to infection prevention.  Alcohol is used in lower concentrations in many of the surface disinfectants we use.   We cannot afford to have our hand hygiene or surface disinfection products develop resistance or we’ll really be up the creek without a paddle!

Bugging Off!
Nicole

Friday, August 31, 2018

Man’s best friend may not be baby’s best friend


I would hope it’s safe to say we all know that being around cat poop for a pregnant mom-to-be can have dire consequences due to toxoplasmosis.  I’m not going to deny that being a cat lover and owner of the kitty litter cleaning brigade getting a 9 month leave of absence was lovely.  I know that some people don’t really believe it’s an issue, but believe me the aftereffect to the child is very real.  While I may seem cheeky in my comments of not having to clean the kitty litter, the truth is I’ve seen the devastating effects of toxoplasmosis firsthand.  The sweet child is no longer with us, he passed away from complications resulting from the seizures he was prone to.

We know cats can cause harm to our unborn babies, and there are of course a number of old wives tales about babies and cats.  Cats always seem to get the short end of the stick, but what about man’s best friend, the dog?  Well, according to some recent findings it appears that we may need to be concerned about dogs as well.  In particular, we need to be concerned with pregnant dogs and newborn puppies as they can carry diseases that can infect their human.  There have been a number of cases of pregnant women becoming infected with brucellosis.  In humans, brucellosis can lead to fever, joint weakness and fatigue.  If pregnant, it can lead to miscarriage in the first trimester and if infected later on in the pregnancy can lead to preterm labour and stillbirth.

In truth, contracting brucellosis from dogs is relatively rare.  However, brucellosis is also commonly found in a number of farm animals; sheep, goats and cows.  The long and the short, if you’re pregnant you should avoid helping dogs and farm animals during labour and should consider not handling newborn puppies regardless of how darn cute they are!

If you’re interested in learning more about what diseases can be spread from dogs to humans, I came across an interesting article in the Journal of Medicine and Life.  I didn’t realise the Norovirus could be spread from dogs to people….  As mentioned in my blog “Summer Sickness may equal Winter Weakness”, this could be a bad year for norovirus!  If you have a dog, you may want to be vigilant.  Norovirus is spread via the fecal-oral route and you know that dogs lick their bums!

The need for hand hygiene and environmental surface disinfection never ceases to amaze me!

Bugging Off!

Nicole

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Playing Hooky!


Some weeks you bite off more than you can chew.  This week was one of them.  Too many things to do and not enough hours in the day! My poor little brain hit the wall.  Well….that and 2:15pm on Friday came along before I could get the blog done.

I think you’ll agree, I spent my Friday afternoon being very productive!

Bugging Off!
Nicole

Friday, August 17, 2018

Summer Sickness may equal Winter Weakness



A few weeks ago while a group of us were floating in the river enjoying an adult beverage my husband announced that in 120 days it will be winter. The day in question was north of 30oC (>90oF).  It was sunny.  The water we were floating in was about 82oF.  My drink was over ice.  None of us were interested in thinking about winter, snow, ice or -30oC (-22oF) temperatures.  There are now only 106 days until winter starts.  As I no longer ski and people are often idiots when driving in snow, I’ve hit the age where I can do without it. It’s bad enough 10 out of 12 months of my year are spent hockey rinks. I get enough “freezing” time.

So what does winter and freezing have to do with summer sickness?  Norovirus infections can occur at any time of the year, but happen most often during the winter months – hence its old name “winter vomiting disease”. Apparently for Norovirus, there is a link to the severity of outbreaks during summer months and what our winter Norovirus “season” might look like. Experts reviewed Norovirus trends and are linking higher case counts in the summer to winters with more severe disease.  Britain has been experiencing a rash of gastro cases with unusually high numbers of people suffering with diarrhoea and vomiting.  Based on published information, the illnesses appear to be short-lived, with a sudden onset, and very unpleasant – sounds like Noro to me!  The difficulty in confirming the cause of illness can be attributed to the fact that most people when sick do not seek medical attention so samples are not taken for verification. One of the trends noted is that following the increased summer activity of 2002, there were more cases than usual reported in the following winter, higher than any of the preceding years. 

Before we start yelling “The sky is falling”, it’s too early to say that what’s going on this summer can in fact predict what will happen in the near future.  But here’s a few examples of what happened this summer:
  •         At least 97 people suffered from symptoms of vomiting, diarrhoea and fever after spending time at Woods Pond Beach in Bridgton, Maine in the US.
  •         Officials at Camp Glenburn (New Brunswick, Canada) decided to close the summer camp for the rest of the season after being closed a second time because of norovirus.
  •         780 people have caught the illness since May, back when the hot weather in the UK began.
  •         3 outbreaks on cruise ships since May with 187 illnesses. 1 of the outbreaks has been confirmed as Norovirus, the other 2 remain unknown.

In probably one of the best quotes I have read on Norovirus, Dr Peter Cowling, a microbiologist from the UK stated “The only way to avoid norovirus is to avoid everyday life.  You run a risk of catching it wherever you go and if you come into contact with someone who is infected you are highly likely to catch it.”

Realistically, getting Norovirus at any point during the year is a crapshoot (pun intended).  It will be interesting to see if the same trends with higher than normal summer Norovirus sickness will lead to upcoming winter Norovirus weakness!

Bugging Off!
Nicole

Friday, August 10, 2018

Bacterial Laden Wristbands


As mentioned in last week’s blog, after coming back from a conference I had something up my sleeve.  Summer is a time for fairs, water parks and many other outdoor events. As a way to easily identify those who have paid for admittance to special areas of parks or have unlimited ride access, wrist bands are commonly used. They can be any colour under the sun. They are generally made of a plastic-papery type material, have an adhesive or other self-closing mechanism to keep the band in place. I’ve never really thought much of them. They’re on for a day and then they’re off. Even during any hospital stays, I’ve never really thought much of the bands that are placed on me or a loved one. They provide our identification, they have crucial information that for some may even be lifesaving.

Last week however, at one of the largest international beauty shows in Vegas where the temperature outside was well into the 90’s we were given a wrist band made of a very nice silky ribbon and told that it had to stay on at all times and if we lost it we would have to pay $75 to replace. After having lunch with the thing on and seeing firsthand the darn thing slipping into the salsa we were eating it occurred to me that this was gross! I don’t wear any piece of clothing constantly for 4 days. I was curious how gross the bands could get!

Thanks to our R&D team who is as curious about these type of things as I am, I grabbed the wristbands of my colleagues and some of the other vendors. I was also able to sweet talk my way into getting a “new” wristband without having to pay. I will admit, the lady was looking at me oddly when I explained what I wanted to do, but she played along to my geekiness!

We looked at the bacterial contamination of the wristbands by testing them both qualitatively and quantitatively to determine their level of contamination.  From the pictures below, I hope you’ll agree that the results are pretty cool! The first picture is what they looked like from placing a piece of the band on a growth media to see what would grow.  The second image is what we found after sonicating the bands in a buffer solution, incubating and then doing a colony count.



For full disclosure, the ‘control’ band was shipped in a Ziploc that previously held candies (Skittles to be exact), so it was “as gross as the used bands”.  To my defense, that was the only bag I had on me when I got the band and was scared I would lose it….  I definitely need to improve my sample collection “skills”.

Thankfully we do not know who Band #2 belongs to, but definitely, their level of hygiene, or what they get up to with their hands and wrists is different from the owners of Band #1 and #3!  We can’t really draw any conclusions, but what it does highlight is that we can easily pick up “bugs” as we go about our day to day business.  It would also appear that some are better at picking up “bugs” than others.  Is this enough to put me in a non-wristband wearing bubble?  NO!  That said, it does remind me of the importance of cleaning my hands frequently throughout the day and especially before I eat!


Bugging Off!

Nicole