Study: Hospital Sinks Next to Patient Toilets May Harbor Dangerous Bacteria

A new study has found that sinks located next to patient toilets in hospital rooms are far more likely to harbor dangerous bacteria than those sinks located closer to the room's entry door, according to an Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC) news release.

The research, published in the American Journal of Infection Control (AJIC), was performed in the 26-bed medical intensive care unit of a 600-bed Wisconsin hospital. It found that, of samples tested, 87% of the unit’s patient sinks next to toilets tested positive for Klebsiella pneumoniae carbapenemase (KPC) while only about 22% of sink drains located closer to the entry door of the room tested positive for KPC.

Furthermore, researchers found that in four of five rooms in which the entry-door sink tested positive, the sink near the toilet was also positive. This, the researchers suggest, points to a potential source for in-room cross-contamination.  

In the news release, the study authors are quoted as saying, "This study, if validated, could have major implications for infection control. If sinks next to toilets are indeed a reservoir for KPC, additional interventions — such as modified hand hygiene practices and sink disinfection protocols — may be needed to stem the risk of transmission among healthcare providers and patients alike."

Despite the high presence of KPC in the hospital's medical intensive care unit, the release noted that the unit did not have any documented interactions with KPC-producing organisms within the past year.