A group of scientists in Ireland wanted to understand whether commonly touched utilities within the community could act as reservoirs and distribution points for gram-negative bacteria found within local hospitals.
The scientists selected 6 cashpoints and 6 pedestrian crossings located within the geographic area of two hospitals 1.5 Km apart in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The investigators swab sampled the “Enter” key of the cashpoints and the “Call” button of the pedestrian crossings over a 2 week period.
The cashpoints had an average bacterial contamination of 4.25 cfu/cm2 and the pedestrian crossings 2.9 cfu/cm2. The microbiological flora identified was exclusively gram-positive. The principle species identified were Micrococcus luteus, Staphylococcus sp. and Bacillus simplex. One sample of Mycobacterium kansasii was recovered from a cashpoint. All of the organisms recovered were susceptible to antibiotics, although the Micrococcus was resistant to mupirocin and one strain of Staphylococcus was resistant to cefoxitin.
The authors conclude that cashpoints and public crossings are not sources of gram-negative bacteria and suggest that this may be due to the relative dryness or high polish of the metal surfaces from which these objects are manufactured, or the high levels of ambient light and temperatures to which the bacteria may have been exposed.
Communal sources of multi-drug resistant organisms exist and scientists continue to study transmission pathways to try understand and determine where these community reservoirs may reside.