Is there a relationship between airborne and surface microbes in the critical care environment?

J. Smith, C.A. Adams, M.F. King, C.J. Noakes, C. Robertson, S.J. Dancer

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19 Citations (Scopus)
116 Downloads (Pure)


Objective This study attempted firstly to correlate environmental contamination of air and surfaces in the intensive care unit (ICU); and secondly, to examine any association between environmental contamination and ICU-acquired staphylococcal infection. Design We screened patients, air and surfaces on 10 sampling days in a mechanically ventilated 10-bed ICU during 10 months. Methods Near-patient hand-touch sites (n=500) and air (n=80) were screened for total colony count and Staphylococcus aureus using dipslides, settle plates (passive air sampling) and an MAS-100 slit-sampler (active air sampling). Air counts were compared with surface counts according to proposed standards for air and surface bioburden. Patients were monitored for ICU-acquired staphylococcal infection throughout. Results Overall, 235 of 500 (47%) surfaces failed the standard for aerobic counts (≤2.5 cfu/cm2). Half of passive air samples (20 of 40: 50%) failed the ‘Index of Microbial Air’ contamination (2 cfu/9cm plate/hr), and 15/40 (37.5%) active air samples failed the clean air standard (
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Hospital Infection
Early online date9 Apr 2018
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 9 Apr 2018


  • hospital acquired infection
  • hospital environment
  • bacterial transmission


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