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Airborne and Surface-Bound Microbial Contamination in Two Intensive Care Units of a Medical Center in Central Taiwan

Category: Articles

Volume: 13 | Issue: 3 | Pages: 1060-1069
DOI: 10.4209/aaqr.2012.08.0217

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Ping-Yun Huang1, Zhi-Yuan Shi2, Chi-Hao Chen1, Walter Den 1, Hui-Mei Huang3, Jaw-Ji Tsai4

  • 1 Department of Environmental Science and Engineering, Tunghai University, No. 181, Sec. 3, Taichung Port Road, Taichung City 40704, Taiwan
  • 2 Section of Infectious Diseases, Department of Internal Medicine, Taichung Veteran General Hospital, No. 160, Sec. 3, Taichung Port Road, Taichung 40705, Taiwan
  • 3 Department of Nursing, Taichung Veteran General Hospital, No. 160, Sec. 3, Taichung Port Road, Taichung 40705, Taiwan
  • 4 Section of Allergy and Immunology, Taichung Veterans General Hospital, Taichung 40705, Taiwan


Samples of airborne and surface-bound microbial contamination were taken in two intensive care units of a large-scale medical center. Microbial analyses included total bacterial and fungal loads, as well as the four bacterial species of Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli, Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Acinetobacter baumannii. Among the 114 surface samples taken from seven designated surface locations of room and equipment for each patient, P. aeruginosa was the most frequently detected (19.3%) and most abundant (mean count: 4.18 cfu/plate) bacterium, whereas the respirator represented the most heavily contaminated surface location in both total pathogenic bacteria colony counts (272 cfu) and frequency of positive detection (38.2%). P. aeruginosa also represented the most frequently detected (39.1%, n = 46) and abundant (11.52 ± 17.16 cfu/m3) bacterium in the air samples (n = 46), and was the only bacterium exhibiting a positive correlation of the mean counts between air and surface samples. The data analysis results further suggested a higher value of relative risk among the infected patients in the presence of the pathogens as compared to those in the absence of them, although the evidence of a of correlation for the individual bacterial species between the environmental samples and infected patients was inconclusive. This study also found that the mean airborne counts and the detection frequencies of these bacteria after patient visitation periods were higher than those before visitation, and that the installation of local air ionizers did not lead to any discernible differences in total bacterial and fungal concentrations.


Indoor air quality Nosocomial infection Airborne pathogens Intensive care units Hospital environment

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