Washing Machines Can Shelter Drug-Resistant Bacteria: Report

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Washing Machines Can Shelter Drug-Resistant Bacteria: Report


Almost every household owns a washing machine that has one basic function – to clean dirty clothes. Thus, a new report revealing washing machines are not clean all the time is surprising. This all started with an isolated case in a German hospital that had been spreading harmful pathogens to patients. They found out that it all came from a washing machine that was linked to the spread of drug-resistant bacteria. 

A case published in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology reported that doctors at the German hospital noticed that newborns in their facility kept testing positive for Klebsiella oxytoca, a particular strain of drug-resistant bacteria. It is known for causing serious infections in healthcare settings such as intensive care units and nursing homes. The bacterium was found on the babies’ skin. Although it didn’t cause an infection, it can help to develop conditions such as pneumonia, wound infections, and urinary tract infections. All of these can weaken immune systems. 


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Study lead author Dr. Ricarda Schmithausen, a senior physician at the Institute for Hygiene and Public Health at University Hospital Bonn in Germany, said the case was "highly unusual" for a hospital. This is because they use a household type of washing machine instead of industrial machines. Live Science, a science news website that features groundbreaking developments in science, space, technology, health, the environment, our culture, and history, reported that the average person doesn't need to worry about their washing machines getting this bacteria. 


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Dr. Amesh Adalja, an infectious disease specialist and a senior scholar at The Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security in Baltimore, stated that washing machines are not designed to make clothes sterile. "[They] don't get hot enough to kill every form of life that's on your clothing,” he said. Nevertheless, people may need to take some precautions with household laundry machines when doing laundry for certain groups of susceptible people. This includes people with infected wounds that have pus, those with compromised immune systems, and elderly people who require nursing care.




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