Jun 22 Celloglas News

Healthcare and the fight against bacteria on print

The healthcare sector continues to face its long-held battle against healthcare-associated infections (HCAIs). NICE has estimated that 300,000 patients a year in England acquire a healthcare-associated infection. The rate of infection is relatively low in the UK compared to the rest of the world. But despite a sharpened focus on hygiene – particularly heightened by the devastating COVID-19 – the fight is ongoing and there’s much work to be done.

Here, we take a look at the main risks in healthcare settings and explain how print can play a vital role in the work towards eliminating superbugs.

Killing germs and preventing their spread
Pathogens including methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and norovirus can live in the healthcare environment for days. In the US, research published in April by the New England Journal of Medicine found that SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for coronavirus, is infectious for up to 24 hours on cardboard and up to two to the three days on plastic and stainless steel. It’s a finding that brings stark realisation to what the sector is up against in slowing the tide of infection in UK hospitals. Stringent infection control regimens including good hand hygiene, rigorous cleaning and disinfectant all play a vital role. But there’s increasing concern surrounding escalating antimicrobial resistance and of course there’s always the fact that’s it’s impossible to sanitise surfaces all the time.

The New England Journal of Medicine also found that SARS-CoV-2 lives on copper for only four hours thanks to its antimicrobial properties. In the long term, perhaps we might see a move toward copper surfaces in healthcare settings. But those working in print can join in the fight and play their part in offering a more short-term viable solution.

The power of print in saving lives
In 2001, the Journal of Hospital Infection reported that MRSA could survive on sterile packaging, paper and foil for more than 38 weeks. But the print industry can help to limit the spread of bacteria via frequently handled printed matter found in hospitals, surgeries, pharmacies and clinics.

Medical records, resources, leaflets, brochures, magazines and even cafeteria menus can carry bacteria that’s quickly spread by anyone who touches them. But cover or finish them correctly and these items can actually reduce the transmission of germs and keep those who come into contact with them safe. Innovative coatings and laminates allow us to do our bit in protecting those vulnerable from infection by reducing the risk of harmful bacteria spread in those environments. This is extremely significant given that 80% of illness-causing germs are transferred by touch alone, according to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Antimicrobial agents, which are a key ingredient of these groundbreaking print finishes, act against all types of microorganisms, including bacteria, viruses and fungi. Antimicrobial properties of print are so successful thanks to the silver-ion technology at its core. It prevents build of bacteria and attacks it, stopping it growing and replicating on materials. Silver has a proven success rate, even with resistant strains of bacteria. Antimicrobial print is revolutionary for our industry – but, crucially, it could make a huge difference in the worldwide fight against infection and even save lives.

Researchers remain resolute in their determination to find new insight into anti-viral surfaces and coatings in an attempt to get appropriate products into use in the fight against bacteria. The value of antimicrobial coatings and laminates won’t only be felt in the healthcare sector. Education, travel, hospitality and retail can all help to significantly reduce the spread of bacteria by making the right choices when it comes to printed materials.

Contact us to find out more about antimicrobial print and how you can play your part in the fight against bacteria, whether in the healthcare sector or any other.