Researchers at Cardiff University have revealed that the anti-bacterial swipes used against MRSA are useful if they are used only once.
The team, led by microbiologist Dr Jean-Yves Maillard, has therefore suggested that the staff should throw away wipes after cleaning just one surface.
Disinfectants are routinely used on hard surfaces in hospitals to kill bacteria, with antimicrobial containing wipes increasingly being employed for this purpose.
In the study, researchers examined the ability of antimicrobial-surface wipes to remove, kill and prevent the spread of such infections as MRSA.
They found that current procedures utilised by hospital staff have the potential to spread bacteria after only the first use of a wipe, particularly due to the ineffectiveness of wipes to actually kill bacteria.
For the study, researchers involved a surveillance programme observing hospital staff using surface wipes to decontaminate surfaces near patients, such as bed rails, and other surfaces commonly touched by staff and patients, such as monitors, tables and key pads.
They found that the wipes were being applied to the same surface several times and used on consecutive surfaces before being discarded.
These actions were then replicated in the lab alongside a three-step system, developed by researchers to test the ability of several commercially available wipes to disinfect surfaces contaminated with strains Staphylococcus aureus, including MRSA and MSSA.
The system tested the removal of pathogens, the transmission of them, and the anti-microbial properties of wipes.
Researchers found that although some wipes can remove higher numbers of bacteria from surfaces than others, the wipes tested were unable to kill the bacteria removed.
As a result, high numbers of bacteria were transferred to other surfaces when reused.
"Claims of effectiveness, such as 'kills MRSA', are ubiquitous on the packaging of antimicrobial-containing wipes. Methods currently available to test the performance of these products may be inappropriate since they do not assess the ability of wipes to actually disinfect surfaces. We have developed a simple, rapid, robust and reproducible method which will help identify best practice in the use of the wipes," Dr Gareth Williams, microbiologist at the Welsh School of Pharmacy.
Researchers have suggested three basic principles to reduce the incidence of MRSA in hospitals.
They are calling for a 'one wipe - one application - per surface' approach to infection control in healthcare environments.
"On the whole, wipes can be effective in removing, killing and preventing the transfer of pathogens such as MRSA but only if used in the right way. We found that the most effective way is to prevent the risk of MRSA spread in hospital wards is to ensure the wipe is used only once on one surface," he added.