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.

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Friday, October 12, 2018

Copper Coatings for Consumers?

I don’t believe I’ve ever tried to pull the wool over the eyes of my readers.  I’ve been upfront in stating I work for a disinfectant manufacturer, and I’ve been diligent in trying to ensure the topics and content I include in my blogs are educational and not promoting of my company’s products.  My belief, is that in developing the best cleaning and disinfection protocols - regardless of whether it’s for our homes, our offices, our schools, hospitals or even barns - that education, discussion, debate and even the occasional agree to disagree stalemate helps us look at the information laid out in front of us, evaluate it and draw the conclusions that are right for us and that we are comfortable and confident in implementing.

There are always two sides to every story.  In science, the data can and in many cases is often presented in a way to draw conclusions that we want the reader to see.  As a reader, it’s up to us to read between the lines; to ensure that both sides of the story are being presented equally and draw our conclusions after looking at all of the facts.  For that life lesson, I’ll be forever grateful for my Wildlife Ecology teacher from university.

Why do I bring this up?  Well, there was an article published in the Toronto Sun indicating there is a way to beat the bugs found in our public transit systems.  I’m not going to deny, there have been a number of articles published talking about studies looking at the level of bacteria or viruses found on public surfaces.  Heck, I’ve blogged about some of them: toilets, airplanes, security bins.  The reason for my sharing is that we need to be aware of our surroundings.  We need to know that yes, our world includes bugs, many of which can cause harm via infections.  We need to be reminded that we need to wash our hands, and we need to be reminded that cleaning surfaces to remove dirt, grime and pathogens that have been deposited during the day is an important part of life.

The article in question is an opinion article.  Everyone is entitled to their opinion.  Someone who works for a company that develops and sells copper coatings for environmental surfaces is going to provide their opinion on how their product can be used to improve the lives of TTC riders.  According to the author of the article, “Copper immediately begins killing bacteria and stops it spreading.  The antimicrobial power of copper never stops, so a copper coated surface that is new or 100 years old, will be equally antimicrobial.”  The author further suggests that “Premier Ford, who has vowed to upload the TTC to the province might consider investing in this made-in-Canada technology to protect Torontonians.

Copper and other coatings have been investigated for some time as potential aids in reducing the bioburden of bacteria in hospitals, where the concern of picking up a deadly infection is very concerning and very real.  In fact, in 2013 I did a “Disinfectant Chemistry Report Card on Copper and Silver Antimicrobial Coatings”.   Governmental agencies and microbiology experts have been discussing and debating for years over what testing should be conducted in order to determine efficacy of antimicrobial coatings.  In fact in 2008, the US EPA proposed a protocol assessing the bactericidal activity of 21 different copper and copper alloy surfaces. Those surfaces can be registered with the claim to “kill 99.9% of bacteria within two hours”.  For reference, many disinfectants kill to the same level in 10 – 30 seconds.  


I’m not saying that antimicrobial surfaces do not have a place.  What I am hoping to get across is that they are not the silver bullet.  Yes, they have the ability to kill and reduce bacteria, but what about viruses?  The outbreaks that impact our cities with greater frequency and with greater impact to our life are viral based (SARS, Influenza, Norovirus etc). 

To highlight some of the “holes” in the use of copper coatings, I wanted to share a recently published journal article that showed a meta-analysis of the published literature on the use of copper and its alloys.  The authors reviewed 257 studies and concluded that there is no clear evidence of the clinical benefit of copper surfaces. While copper surfaces have demonstrated antimicrobial activity, the implications of this activity in healthcare settings are still unclear, and no published study has been able to show a clear effect on healthcare associated infections.

Another tidbit that we should find interesting is that, while copper does have a continued ability to reduce bacterial levels, there are factors that can inhibit the killing action of copper such as antioxidants, organic soil, or the repeated use of cleaning products.  I think we can agree, that with the numbers of TTC riders each and every day, soil and dirt will be deposited on the copper surfaces and this soil will need to be removed with cleaning products.

So what’s my opinion?  I’m not going to count my copper pennies yet.  I think there is some interesting data to show that there could be some benefit to using antimicrobial surfaces like copper.  However, their use and impact in reducing the spread of infections is not clear, and regardless of their use, we will dirty the areas we inhabit.  This means we’ll always need to clean, which as some data is supporting, can impact or reduce the effectiveness of copper. 

Bugging Off!

Friday, October 5, 2018

Eye touchers beware!

I have no qualms about touching my eyeballs.  I particularly like doing it in front of people who can’t and get all squeamish and grossed out.  It’s really a good party trick, particularly around a pack of young boys.  However, our eyes are more than the window to our souls.  As a mucous membrane they are one of the areas of our body that can be incredibly susceptible to infections.  Pink eye is a great example, that nasty infection that results in itchy oozing eyes.

As a former contact wearer, the importance of infection control was not lost on me.  Simple things like washing your hands before putting your “eyes” in or taking them out and keeping the contact lens container clean were incredibly important.  Even though I knew this, and thought I practiced good hygiene I ended up with an ulcer in my eye.  My eye doctor suspected my lens solution as the cause and whether it was an allergic reaction or an infection. I was lucky, had the ulcer been in a different location it could have impaired by vision.

Why would you care about my eyes?  Well, I hope you care about yours especially if you happen to live in the UK where Acanthamoeba keratitis infections have been spiking among contact lens users.  The recent outbreak has UK Health experts urging contact lens users to be more careful.  According to the study that was published in the British Journal of Ophthalmology, the rate of Acanthamoeba keratitis infection has gone up by 3 times since 2011.  This type of infection is usually considered rare with only 2.5 people / 100,000 every year.  The study found that reusable contact lens users who had eye infections were more likely to have ineffective contact lens solution, contaminated lenses and overall poor contact lens hygiene.  Aside from poor hygiene, wearing contact lenses while swimming, using hot tubs or showering can also increase the risk as the amoeba can be found in bodies of water, soil and even air.

Moving to disposable lenses eliminates the need for contact lens cases or contact lens solutions.  However, while they reduce some risk factors the use of disposable lenses does not remove the need for proper hand hygiene.  The long and the short is if you use contacts or if like me you frequently touch your eyes make sure your hands are clean before handing the contact lenses or touching your eyeball!

Bugging Off!

Friday, September 28, 2018

#FF Fall for Fun!

I have a love hate relationship with fall.  As much as I love watching the leaves change colour, and don’t mind the cooler nights for sleeping, I know that cool is going to lead to cold….   It also means hockey season starts in full force so when it’s warm and sunny outside, I can be found often wrapped in a blanket at the rink catching up on reading or listening to podcasts and teleclasses while pretending to feign interest in the practice.

As noted in past blogs, the Teleclass Education by Webber Training is an international lecture series on topics related to infection prevention and control. The objective is to bring the best possible education to the widest possible audience with the fewest possible barriers when trying to access it.  Here's the list of teleclasses for the fourth quarter of 2018.

For more information on Webber Training, including a full list of the upcoming Infection Prevention and Control Teleclasses, please visit www.webbertraining.com.  If you’re a Twitter follower you can also be part of the conversation during the sessions by following #WebberTraining.

I hope many of you will take the opportunity to listen to these teleclasses and share them with your colleagues!  

Bugging Off!


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!


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!


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!

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!


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!

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!

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!


Friday, August 3, 2018

Ride the Red Tide

This week I was at one of the largest international Beauty shows.  I have something up my sleeve as a follow up, but I need to wait patiently for our microbiologist to conduct some “testing”.  I will say, it was 4 days for equally seeing the good, the bad and the really, really ugly! If you think I’m being petty, no, I’m not talking about people...

One of my favorite parts of travelling, is having uninterrupted time on a plane to catch up on reading.  While I’m not a “tree-hugger”, I do care about the environment and try to do my best in minimizing my environmental footprint.  We recycle, we compost, we minimize our plastic use and we minimize purchasing packaged or processed foods opting for fresh grown veggies etc.  The company I work for also ties nicely into my hope for a future where we do not continue to kill the environment.  Our corporate focus is to innovate and develop sustainable disinfectants to improve the health of people and animals all the while reducing their environmental impact.  This means we work to find greener alternatives to many of the more commonly used chemicals used for manufacturing cleaning and disinfecting products.  Our products have never contained Nonylphenol Ethoxylates (NPEs) which are known endocrine disruptors that have negative impacts on both people and animals and are toxic to aquatic life. In the last 10 years we have also been reducing and/or removing phosphates from our products due to the impact that they have on the environment.

You may be thinking “Who cares!” or “How does a Beauty conference and how cleaners and disinfectants are developed impact me?”  Well, the products we use in both our professional and personal lives have a direct impact on our environment.  We need only to look at the Red Tide and the thousands of dead fish, manatees, whale sharks, sea turtles and sea birds that have been killed over the last 9 months in what has been the longest lasting Red Tide in our history.  About 100 miles of shoreline in southwest Florida have been affected by the Red Tide so far, and the scariest part is that officials don't know when it's going to end meaning thousands of more animals and people will be impacted.

Red Tide is caused by algal blooms. The growth of this algae depends on wind, temperature, nutrients, and salinity. While there is no one factor that contributes to the development of these blooms, pollution of water or coastal areas has been linked to the phenomenon. Access to nutrients to such as nitrates and phosphates, which can be abundant in agricultural run-off, human sewage and waste water. Think about it, every cleaner and disinfectant, body wash, shampoo, laundry and dish detergent we use enter our sewer systems which eventually get released back into the environment. As usual, we are our own worst enemy.

Knowing this, it was refreshing to see the number of products showcased at the Beauty convention that were phosphate free, that were environmentally friendly and would reduce our negative footprint on the environment. I hope you’ll take a look at some of the pictures or videos that have been shared highlighting the impact of Florida’s Red Tide on the marine life. I hope you’ll share with your friend and I hope you’ll join me in choosing products that will reduce the impact on animals, people and the planet!

Bugging Off!


Friday, July 27, 2018

What’s under your nails?

I grew up riding horses and playing piano.  Having long nails, or even just pretty painted nails was not part of my daily regime.  Frankly, it was a waste of time and effort.  Scrubbing them clean after a day spent at the barn just scraped off the nail polish and my piano teacher would seriously stop mid-lesson to make me trim my nails if there was any hint of clicking on the ivories.  To this day, I prefer a naked nail, but it’s really not about the look. I’m simply too lazy to deal with the upkeep!

While nails may not be my thing, it seems that nails have become an obsession (or concern) for some in the infection control community.  We know many of our infection prevention guidelines recommend keeping our hands covered with the thought that it keeps our hands cleaner longer. The ugly truth is that it’s not the fingertips that are full of bacteria, but our fingernails.  Who would have thought that the thin keratin shields we call our finger nails harbor a smorgasbord of bacteria!  Going as far back as 1988, researchers have found that the space under the fingernails is “an important site” for harboring bacteria.

Flash forward to present day and we’re still interested and investigating what impact our hands, our nails and our nail products have on the microbial bio-burden of our hands.  In a new study, that has just hit the press, 74 participants were enrolled and had swab cultures obtained from their nails in order to determine what difference (if any) is seen between nails with gel polish, standard polish or an unpolished natural nail.

The study showed that regardless of the three nail types, over time all became increasingly more contaminated with bacteria.  When the results of pre and post hand hygiene was compared, it was found that a natural nail or one with standard nail polish was easier and more likely to be effectively cleaned with alcohol than hands with gel polish.  Of interest, nails with gel polish did show lower bacterial levels prior to performing hand hygiene which leads to speculation as to whether the UV light used to cure the gel polish aids in reducing the bacterial load when the gel is applied.  The long and the short is that based on this study, the jury is out as to whether wearing gel polish can negatively impact infection prevention.

As for me? Well, tomorrow I jet off to Las Vegas for a Professional Beauty convention so this afternoon I treated myself to a manicure with gel polish and a pedicure with standard polish.  I have no intention of testing how clean or dirty my fingers get, I just hope I can keep them looking good for the next 4 days!

Bugging Off


Saturday, July 21, 2018

#FF Summer School!

Summer is a time to relax, recharge and enjoy the outdoors. If you’re like me you may have scored a really amazing swim cap! For me, summer is also about getting caught up on reading – both for pleasure and for education. In the first 2 weeks of summer I have already blown through 4 novels.  I can tell you the names, but don’t ask for details.  For me pleasure reading is like watching a movie.  It takes me away from reality and lets me stretch my imagination, but I generally don’t waste any of my grey matter trying to remember the plot.  Summer is also a time when I try to tackle a couple of personal development books, listen to podcasts or participate in other on-line or digital educational seminars. 

The Webber Training Teleclass lectures are a great example of that!  As noted in past blogs, the Teleclass Education by Webber Training is an international lecture series on topics related to infection prevention and control. The objective is to bring the best possible education to the widest possible audience with the fewest possible barriers when trying to access it.  Here's the list of teleclasses for the third quarter of 2018.

Title of Teleclass
July 12th
The future of infection control – Bright or bleak?
Martin Kiernan, UK
July 17th
Hospital infection control for a developing country’s perspective Dr. Aamer Ikram, Pakistan
July 19th
Flood remediation in healthcare facilities – Infection control implications
Michael Buck, USA
August 16th
Interpreting research evidence – A key skill for infection control professionals Prof. Donna Moralejo, Canada
September 6th
Molecular diagnostics and its role in infection prevention
Sanchita Das, USA
September 13th
Neonatal sepsis prevention in low-resource settings Prof. Angela Dramowski, Africa
September 20th
The silent tsunami of Azole-resistance in the opportunistic fungus Aspergillus fumigatus
Prof. Paul E. Verweij, The Netherlands
September 27th
Chlorhexidine use and bacterial resistance Prof. Jean Yves Maillard, Wales
September 30th
Surveillance by objectives – Using measurement in the prevention of healthcare associated infections
Prof. Jennie Wilson, UK

For more information on Webber Training, including a full list of the upcoming Infection Prevention and Control Teleclasses, please visit www.webbertraining.com.  If you’re a Twitter follower you can also be part of the conversation during the sessions by following #WebberTraining.

I hope many of you will take the opportunity to listen to these teleclasses and share them with your colleagues! 

Bugging Off!


Friday, July 13, 2018

Will pigs be the next reservoir for Ebola?

As some may recall, in 2014 I wrote a blog about Ebola and the outbreak in Guinea. It was a story, if you will, of how my passion and interest in infection prevention came to be. If you happen to read the blog, you’ll see that a reader took my interest in infection prevention and what was happening as not showing respect and having “something wrong with me.”

Ebola is an interest of mine. I do find it fascinating. It’s history. Our attempts to contain the multitude of outbreaks that have occurred and our inability to stop these outbreaks from happening. I read any article that comes across my desk that talks about Ebola and yes, I keep tabs on any outbreaks that are currently happening. You can imagine my interest in coming across an article that indicated there was some evidence that pigs might be able to host the Ebola virus. We know that viruses can't survive in the environment, and in most cases once the dust has settled and an outbreak investigation has wrapped up, we know that some type of animal must be serving as a "reservoir".  When it comes to Ebola, the evidence so far points to fruit bats as the guilty party, but gorillas, chimpanzees, and even antelope may also play a role.
If pigs were to be found to be involved in spreading Ebola, this could be particularly worrisome. It would mean that a common animal, one used as livestock, one that some may even live with, could be spreading Ebola. The research team from the article collected blood samples from 400 pigs in regions of Sierra Leone that had reported human cases of the Ebola virus. Of the 400 pigs tested, three had antibodies in their blood that reacted to Ebola virus proteins meaning that these animals had been infected by the virus at some point and mounted an immune response.  The researchers found that these antibodies were not protective when challenged to the Ebola virus. 
Does this mean that pigs can or will spread Ebola?  This study shows that pigs can be infected with a type of Ebola virus, perhaps not the one causing the large West African epidemic, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a future possibility.

Bugging Off!

Friday, July 6, 2018

Public Pooping Paranoia

I have a very strong dislike for public bathrooms.  I think it stems from my childhood and my mother’s constant reminders of not to sit or touch the toilet seat and to wash my hands when finished.  This was often followed by “don’t touch the door handle with your clean hands!”  You never quite know when, where and how a child can be traumatized or what long term effects it may have.  As someone who travels and must with some frequency use public rest rooms, every time I enter one I can hear my mom’s voice telling me what to do.  I’m pretty sure I’ve done the same thing to my son.

I think perhaps this is why I was so interested in an article that popped up discussing if germs can in fact be caught from public toilet seats.  First, you may wonder why toilets are of such interest in the first place.  While perhaps a bit personal and a bit TMI - microbes from our gut actually make up 25-54% of our poop.  The other gross truth is that our poop can carry a wide range of infectious pathogens such as Escherichia coli, Salmonella, and Staphylococcus, as well as viruses such as norovirus, rotavirus and hepatitis A.  The good news, is that catching something from sitting on the seat of a public toilet is not very likely.  The reason being is that most gastrointestinal diseases are transmitted via the fecal-oral route meaning that “you gotta eat it to get it”.  Hence the reason why my mom was always so adamant about hand washing.

While the seat may not be the crux of the problem, flushing the toilet may be.  I recall reading a study back in 2011 about what happens when we flush the toilet, and wondering how the heck I was ever to get out of the stall unscathed.  According to the researchers when a toilet is flushed, germs found in plume up and settle over quite a wide area – basically everything you can see or find in a toilet stall including the door handle.  My motto is flush and run!

This leads me to wonder how many people use their cell phones while sitting on the toilet.  Cell phones when tested have been found to harbor far more germs than the seat of a public toilet.  Almost as gross of course are the statistics of how many people DO NOT wash their hands after using the “facilities”.  I wonder what the number of non-hand washing, cell phone users there are? Perhaps the next time you “borrow” your friend’s or your spouse’s phone and put it up to your ear and mouth you may want to consider where it has been!

I guess mom had at least two things right.  Wash your hands after using the toilet and for the love of Pete DO NOT touch the door handle on the way out!

Bugging Off!