Germs thrive in places where people interact in close proximity, and given children’s often poor hygiene habits, it is no wonder that bugs pass from one child to another easily. When an illness affects many children, it is not uncommon to hear of whole schools closing.
Guidance from Public Health England recommends routine immunisation, high standards of personal hygiene, and maintaining a clean environment to help prevent infections spreading.
Another method that could be used in schools to compliment cleaning is the use of antimicrobial technology in its surfaces. Such surfaces have a high efficacy against bacteria, mould and fungi and can protect against superbugs such as MRSA, Legionella, E-coli, Salmonella and Aspergillus niger (black mould).
Antimicrobial classroom Researching into this area, antimicrobial technology company BioCote has worked in conjunction with users of its technology to create the world’s first ever classroom that actively inhibits the growth of potentially harmful microbes.
For the study, the classroom of a UK primary school was equipped with a range of products protected with BioCote antimicrobial technology. These included: computer desks, chairs, door handles, light switches, soap dispensers, cable trunking, sockets, tables, storage trays, bookcases, storage units, castors, carpets, radiator covers, window handles, paint, wall cladding and a water dispenser. All items were provided by BioCote customers – including Deb, Gratnells, Proform Europe, Waterlogic and Rehau – to create a safer, more hygienic learning environment.
Monitoring bacteria Levels of bacteria on the items of interest were measured over a period of time. Simultaneously, data was collected from comparable but untreated items in another classroom. Comparison of the levels of bacteria in these two classrooms revealed a dramatic difference.
Initial findings were impressive; the antimicrobial products in the protected classroom were shown to be over 92 per cent less contaminated with bacteria than the corresponding items in the unprotected classroom.
Technical director and microbiologist at BioCote Dr Richard Hastings said: “We are very proud to be part of the world’s first ‘antimicrobial classroom’. We were keen to undertake the study in a school environment due to the close-contact nature of children in the school classroom – providing the perfect setting for potentially harmful bacteria to spread. We are happy to announce huge bacterial reductions on BioCote treated products, affirming our aim of a cleaner classroom for young children.”
How the technology works ‘Antimicrobial’ is simply the term used to describe something that has the ability to resist the growth of microbes. While the term ‘antibacterial’ refers only to bacteria, ‘antimicrobial’ refers to a wider range of organisms including bacteria, moulds, fungi and others.
All BioCote protected products used as part of the study contain silver, a natural antimicrobial, with a high efficacy against bacteria, mould and fungi. When micro‑organisms come into contact with the silver, their ability to reproduce is inhibited and they die. Products incorporating BioCote have built-in antimicrobial protection against superbugs such as MRSA, Legionella, E-coli, Salmonella and Aspergillus niger (black mould).
Government guidelines Stringent government guidelines recommend schools prevent the spread of infections by maintaining a clean environment. BioCote treated products work effectively with standard cleaning practices, making for an even higher level of cleanliness.
The study will continue throughout the academic year and further data will be collected. The BioCote team are keen to understand if levels of contamination vary due to seasonality, the identity of microbes recovered and what potential antimicrobial technology has for reducing absenteeism due to sickness.