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Effective against outbreak strains

Testing the effects of surface disinfectants on antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Dr. Weigert - Effective against outbreak strains

APPLIED HYGIENE Initiated by the Life Science Nord Cluster, the HIHeal consortium brings infectious diseases experts in the North together. An outcome with high impact for applied hygiene is an evaluation of disinfectants with regard to antibiotic-resistant outbreak strains isolated in the Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf.

The steady rise of bacterial strains that are resistant to antibiotics poses a significant threat to humanity. Since these microbes have shown their ability to adapt to the clinical environment, one obvious question is: Are disinfectants used in hygienic routine measures still working against these bugs? “We regularly receive customer enquiries as to whether our disinfectants are also effective in the presence of MRSA or other antibiotic-resistant bacteria,” says Johannes Lenz, Manager Microbiology and Hygiene Department at chemicals manufacturer - Chemische Fabrik Dr. Weigert GmbH & Co KG. Disinfectants kill bacteria through a bunch of mechanisms completely different to antibiotic agents. “So we can always confirm efficacy of our products. However, we want to provide users with scientific proof”, Lenz points out.

Clinically relevant bacterial strains

“Another question is: are the European reference bacterial strains we use for efficacy testing in the lab still reflecting what’s going on in the real world?,” says Florian Brill, Owner and Managing Director at - Dr. Brill + Partner GmbH Institute for Hygiene and Microbiology, an independent testing laboratory based in Hamburg. The two pressing questions on efficacy were addressed and answered in a succesful joint project within the Hygiene, Infection & Health (HIHeal) network coordinated by the Life Science Nord cluster.

“The beauty of this project is that we used clinically relevant strains for the efficacy testing”, says Brill. The team of medical microbiologist Johannes Knobloch at the - Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf (UKE) provided antibiotic-resistant bacteria strains that caused clinical outbreaks within the last couple of years at the UKE and other German hospitals from their collection. The club of notorious hospital germs consisted of strains from species such as Staphylococcus aureus, Pseudomonas aeruginosa or Klebsiella pneumoniae.

Disinfectants doing their job

In the study the effictiveness of four surface disinfectants, two agents from disinfection manufacturer - Bode Chemie and two agents from Dr. Weigert were tested in the companies’ own labs and the lab of Dr. Brill + Partner.

The results were reassuring: All four surface disinfectant agents perfectly did their job and worked effectively. The researchers also did not observe any shift in the effective concentration of disinfectants. “Another conclusion is that the reference strains from European norms still represent the current clinical antibiotic resistant bacterial community”, says Brill. He is covinced that the validation and the generation of sound data can support and update the international databases of disinfectants, several lists of disinfectants in Germany.

The project team is now writing up the results and is to publish the paper in a scientific journal. How interesting the data are for the scientific community became clear at the Conference of Applied Hygiene, Microbiology and Virology (CAHMV) at the end of November 2022 in Hamburg. “It was obviously the conference talk with the most questions and we had a lively debate,” remembers Brill. His company is the main organizer of the annual conference. One possible next step in the project would be including more disinfectants in the testing. “One could also imagine other testing scenarios - for example on surfaces instead of in suspension”, Brill underlines. He hopes to have more scientific groups or partners join the quest.

According to Brill, the project has also exemplified the strength and the opportunities of the HIHeal network established back in 2016. “By connecting different stakeholders from the private industry, clinics and academica, we are able to set up joint projects which would otherwise not have been started,” states Brill. His company in particular acted as a platform and intermediary between the more scientific oriented experts in the hospitals and universities on the one hand and the companies on the other hand. “Many of the industrial players are also competitors in certain areas. Normally they would not intend joining such a project. However, under the umbrella of HIHeal, it’s easier to collaborate and bring relevant experts together,” he says. In this way, the network actively helps to establish sustainable connections across the infectious disease and infection prevention ecosystem in the North. Also in the disinfectants efficacy testing project, some confidentiality issues had to be solved. “Everybody was open to solve these challenges because we were all interested in the outcome and in the science behind it,” explains Brill. The collaborative spirit was also what Johannes Lenz from Dr. Weigert particularly liked in this HIHeal project: “The cooperation between disinfectant manufacturers, testing laboratories and users is a very good example of how practical solutions can be developed hand in hand.”

Networking perspectives

Juliane Worm, Director Innovation & Technologies at Life Science Nord Management GmbH, who has been responsible for HIHeal, is not only happy with the outcome of the respective project, but also because the fruitful networking can go on. “The HIHeal activities receive one more year of funding by the Behörde für Wirtschaft and Innovation (BWI) in 2023”, Worm says. “This is great news for all topics of the project”.



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