To investigate microbes in NICUs, researchers from the University of California, Berkley, swabbed the most touched surfaces of the unit as well as collecting fecal samples from two premature babies in a small pilot study. The surfaces swabbed included the sink, feeding and breathing tubes, hands of healthcare staff and parents, access knobs on the incubator and electronic devices at the nurses’ station, such as keyboard, mouse and cell phone.
When looking at the two infants fecal samples, to identify microbes living in their guts, they found that there was similarity with microbes identified from the NICU surfaces, with the most abundant similar to that those found on tubes.
Some of the bacteria contained resistance genes, known as efflux pumps, for pumping out the disinfectant used to clean the unit, which gives clues as to why they are present in the NICU despite being subject to regular cleaning and sterilization. The microbes in the guts of premature babies also had these resistance genes.
Researchers used specially filtered vacuum cleaners to collect dust in offices, classrooms, hallways, bathrooms and storage closets to develop a microbial snapshot of the building, based on where people congregated, how people used indoor spaces, and how these spaces were connected to allow human movement between them.The samples were collected from the complex's centerpiece, Lillis Hall -- an airy, 136,000-square-foot facility, which has mechanical air ventilation throughout most of the building, except for a wing of offices where occupants wanted window ventilation. Lillis Hall was the first building in the Eugene-Springfield area to achieve LEED silver certification for its sustainability features. The building was chosen for the study because of its variety of different uses and its flexible operation. For example, Lillis Hall was designed to accommodate both mechanical and natural air ventilation, allowing researchers to observe whether ventilation influences indoor bacterial communities.
"They were found in all rooms, but more abundant in mechanically ventilated -- versus naturally ventilated -- rooms. That might suggest that they are accumulating over time while other bacteria dry out and die in buildings."