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Are disinfectants doing their job? EPA standards for efficacy

January 15, 2020

Antibiotic resistance is a health threat in the United States. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently reported that more people are dying from antibiotic-resistant infections in the U.S. than previously estimated.

Environmental surfaces in health care settings can play a role in disease transmission,39,40 including the spread of antibiotic-resistant infections.40 Proper disinfection of all environmental surfaces, such as hand-held patient care items, is essential to curbing this resistance to antibiotics.

New disinfection technologies have emerged to address the problem, but a thorough understanding of their antimicrobial efficacy is required.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) guidelines for microbial disinfectants are an important standard for efficacy and application in healthcare settings. Their system of logarithmic reduction and negative carrier counts measure disinfection efficacy and is required for the product’s registration with the agency.

For example, to be considered hospital grade, a disinfectant must achieve greater than or equal to 6-log—or 99.9999%—reduction in Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Staphylococcus aureus bacteria.

In other words, if 1,000,000 colony-forming units (or viable bacteria) were present, a 6-log reduction would result in only a single remaining viable bacterium after disinfection.

A product’s log-reduction capability is important given the rapid reproduction rates of potentially harmful pathogens. Without adequate disinfection, pathogens can survive for days and even months.

Certain new technologies, such as ultraviolet light or UV-C, may not achieve EPA required levels of log-reduction for healthcare settings, and should be carefully considered before implementing.

Click here to read more from about “Misleading Math: Kill Claims and Log Reduction.”