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.

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Friday, August 25, 2017

Are we crying wolf over Quats?

I’m not sure what exactly is going on in the world of cleaning, disinfection, and infection prevention, but I am LOVING all of the new studies being published and news bulletins being sent by a whole host of regulatory bodies!  I have topics galore for upcoming blogs!

Last week, I was in the Sacramento area visiting the UC Davis Veterinary Medicine campus.  I was meeting with two influential veterinarians who focus on Shelter Medicine.  Animals, cleaning and disinfection, infection prevention and biosecurity were of course our key topics of discussion.  I’m not sure if it was serendipity or just coincidence that after being on campus, a new publication came rolling across my desk published by researchers at UC Davis.  The study investigated the number of compounds and drugs found in household and pharmaceutical use. The study discovered that Quaternary Ammonium Compounds (Quats) were found in many different types of household products including disinfectants, hand wipes, shampoos, nasal sprays and even mouthwash could inhibit mitochondria (the powerhouse of the cell) as well as estrogenic functions in cells. 

Before we start to panic, it’s important to understand that the testing conducted was done using in-vitro testing using cells.  There is already some evidence to support that Quats can disrupt fertility in mice, therefore the fact that this study shows that Quats can impact the estrogen signalling process that is important for human fertility is something that should not be ignored.  While it’s true we do not yet know what levels these chemicals reach within the human body when exposed to Quats, the data certainly warrants further investigation including moving to investigation using animal models. 

With the ban on Triclosan and need to remove it from consumer products, some companies have been looking to utilize Quats in their place.  The thought of course was they were choosing a safer alternative.  This study demonstrates that this may not be a safer alternative.  This research is yet another to add to the growing pile of findings that Quats may not be as safe as previously believed.  As this study showed, six out of the ten most potent mitochondrial inhibitors were Quats.  The fact that almost everyone is exposed to Quats on a regular, if not daily basis, is certainly cause for concern.

I’m not crying wolf or inferring the sky is falling.  I do however, think this is yet another example of not considering what the wide spread use of antibacterial agents in our homes can lead to.  We know there is no need to use antibacterial hand soaps or antibacterial dish soaps because plain soap and water will do.  Do we really need to use antibacterial agents in our tooth paste?  If we’re concerned with bad breath why not brush more frequently or chew gum between brushings? 

Regardless, this is going to be an interesting topic to follow and see what unfolds as more testing and research is conducted.  I’ll be sure to keep you posted if I learn anything further!

Bugging Off!


Friday, August 18, 2017

Fall Fair Fun

The end of August is bitter sweet.  On the sweet side, it marks the anniversary my husband and I started dating and got married and it marks the month we moved from a high-risk pregnancy to a “you’re good to go” pregnancy.  On the bitter side, it marks the end of summer, the return of cool nights and for children the return to school.  It also marks the start of Fall Fair season!

Growing up on a farm, Fall Fairs were where you got to show off your prized animal (in my case a purebred Hereford named Patience).  She was aptly named as it took all my patience to teach her to lead on a line, stand quietly to be judged and to stop dragging me through the manure pile.  I was a horse girl, so Fall Fairs were also high season for competition – hunter, equitation and jumping were my events.  My boy Wally, known in the show world as “The Other Man” was a bit fickle.  We had our good days and our bad days.  In hindsight, I should have named him “The Only Man” seeing as he was the reason for much of my teenage drama and losses of boyfriends.  If I had a show, you could be sure that I would cancel a date to go ride and groom my horse.

Fall Fairs are a great time for people to learn where our food comes from and to get to touch and feel different animals, learn their sounds and their smells, and for some unsuspecting child or adult it may also mark the first time you got nipped, bit or kicked it because you wrongly thought that all animals were pets.  Fall Fairs are also a time of food poisoning and catching a zoonotic disease such as Salmonella or influenza.  Because Fall Fairs result in the mixing of humans and animals, it is important that we all take steps to protect ourselves from picking up a zoonotic disease.  Whenever there is a human and animal interface, we need to recognize the risks that come with it.  Promoting simple things like good hand hygiene habits and ensuring there is adequate access to hand washing stations or hand sanitizers can go a long way to protecting people.  But it’s not just about our protection, animals can be susceptible as well, so we need biosecurity measures in place to prevent animals getting sick because we traipsed something in to their area on our shoes.

In fact, a study recently published in Emerging Infectious Disease looked at how novel viruses can evolve in an agricultural fair setting highlighting how quickly influenza and other potential diseases can spread from pigs to humans.  The study looked at samples from 161 pigs from 7 different fairs.  They found that for 6 of the 7 fairs, 77.5% of the pigs were infected with Influenza A. Interestingly only 2 of the fairs showed extensive influenza-like illness among the pigs, meaning subclinical infections with influenza pose a potential public health threat.  Influenza viruses can jump from humans to pigs and back to humans.  Biosecurity measures at Fall Fairs and the need to conduct surveillance within the pig population is an important method for detecting novel influenza A viruses that threaten swine and human health alike.

Don’t let this stop you from attending these fun events.  There is much to see and do, and of course eat!  If you happen to attend any in Southwestern Ontario you may come across my niece!  She’s gone the “western” route meaning she runs barrels, poles and flags, but I still love her even if she picked the wrong events!

Bugging Off!


Friday, August 11, 2017

It was the stethoscope in the ER, my dear Watson.

If you ever read or watched the Sherlock Holmes books, movies or the TV series you will recall the line “Elementary, my dear Watson”.  It was the explanation that Sherlock Holmes gave to his assistant, Dr. Watson, when explaining deductions he had made.  Science, like solving murders, is all about deduction and solving mysteries and puzzles.

The same can certainly be said with infection prevention and trying to find out who or what are transmitting infections and how.  In recent years, there has been a huge push on improving hand hygiene rates.  There has also been a focus on improving cleaning and disinfection processes, particularly when it comes in environmental surfaces.  Studies have looked at different types of disinfectant actives, different cleaning processes, changing frequency of disinfection, increasing staff (or decreasing staff), and implementing verification methods to ensure that cleaning and disinfection has in fact occurred.  Several studies have shown that changing products, processes and including a validation program could in fact improve cleaning and disinfection showing a direct link to reducing HAIs. 

Regardless of the implementation of hand hygiene programs or improving environmental surface disinfection, HAIs were not eliminated.  Improved hand hygiene and enhanced cleaning certainly showed a reduction in HAIs, but HAIs still occurred.  Several years ago after conducting a cleaning audit at a facility that was in the midst of an outbreak one of the observations I made was that I never saw any cleaning and disinfection of patient care equipment by nursing staff.

Don’t jump to conclusions.  I’m not saying that nurses are to blame for outbreaks, but the thought came back in flash after reading a study that hoped to improve both hand hygiene and stethoscope hygiene. The researchers’ intervention sought to educate staff regarding the importance of stethoscope hygiene. Expectations were set that stethoscopes needed to be disinfected between each patient encounter due to the fact that they are repeatedly used throughout the day and can become contaminated after contact with patients.  This repeated use throughout the day and between multiple patients make stethoscopes a key fomite that can transmit pathogens from patient to patient.  Unfortunately for the researchers (and maybe the patients) of the 128 initial observations disinfection of the stethoscopes never occurred.  Post-intervention, an additional 41 observations found that even with an education intervention to discuss the importance of disinfection of the stethoscopes, no stethoscope hygiene was performed.

Do I hear crickets chirping

I wonder just how wide spread the lack of stethoscope hygiene is? I know the next time I’m at my doctor’s I’m going to ask when the last time she disinfected her stethoscope was and may just offer to clean it for her myself!

Bugging Off!


Friday, August 4, 2017

Sharing is Caring

My dad is a prostate cancer survivor.  We were lucky.  He had a doctor who was on top of things and through my contacts, we were able to find him an excellent specialist.   The best news of all was in June when the oncologist said my dad no longer needs to visit him and passed him back to his GP.  It was an awesome day.

Why am I sharing this?  Well each November since my dad was diagnosed with prostate cancer I have supported “Movember”.  Rest assured, I am not growing facial hair.   I do, however, donate to friends or family members who decide to grow a beard, a mustache or a goatee.  I’m giving to a worthy cause – prostate cancer research.  I’m hoping that sometime in the future someone else’s dad won’t have to tell his baby girl that he has cancer.

Without a doubt there is no shortage of worthy causes – cancer research, food banks, clothing and even hair donations – we can become almost numb to the requests for money to support cause after cause.  So I will apologize as this is another cause, but one I hope the infection control community can get behind – infection control education.  In particular, funding for infection control education in Africa.

Why is education in Africa so important?  Because there is a shortage of skills particularly in infection prevention and related topics like engineering and infrastructure maintenance.  Education and understanding of the local conditions is pivotal to good infection control practices in both healthcare facilities and in the communities.  Similar to the National Infection Prevention Associations we see in industrialized countries like Canada, the US, the UK, etc, an association was started by a group of visionaries in Africa.  The Infection Control African Network (ICAN) was established in 2012 and has grown include 500 members from 34 countries across Africa. It has an extensive Education programme – Cape to Cairo.  Since 2005 ICAN in partnership with Stellenbosch University has graduated over 120 students in the Postgraduate diploma program in IPC, 300 in fundamentals in IPC, 1200 in the Basic course in IPC, 94 managers in cost effective IPC practices. These are just a few of the many courses that are offered. There is also an ICAN conference where bursaries and scholarships are given to African scientists to present their research. Further, ICAN has been a member of the WHO committees on IPC and related topics with a view to carry forward the view of low to middle income countries. There is no question that ICAN has had a very positive impact on African lives.

But all of this comes with a cost.  In a country the size of Africa where resources and money is scarce, support is needed to continue and expand the education efforts.  By using teleclass education systems like Webber Training, ICAN can take their infection control education into some of the more rural and remote parts of the African continent.  To ensure that as many people as possible can receive the training, all of the course lectures will be made available on teleclassafrica.org in English, and eventually, in French, Portuguese, Arabic, and Swahili.  This will mean that virtually every healthcare worker on the continent will be taught in at least one language that is understandable to them.

In the spirit of “sharing is caring” I am hoping that some of you may be willing to support this worthy cause.  If you’re not able to support, I am hoping that you would consider sharing the Go Fund Me link.  It’s amazing how far $15,000 can go.  Where else on earth can an infection control education program be brought to healthcare workers from 54 countries?  

Bugging Off!