Bacteria persist in hospitals

16 de August de 2017

IDIVAL’s Clinical and Molecular Microbiology group has published a study that analyzes the survival of bacteria of the genus Acinetobacter on some of the most used surfaces in hospitals.

The persistence of pathogenic bacteria in hospitals and health centers plays an important role in the onset of outbreaks and hospital-acquired infection. These bacteria survive in the hospital environment due to their ability to resist without water and food for long periods of time. During these periods, bacteria can adapt to live on surfaces used in daily practice in hospitals, such as furniture, air conditioning grilles, walls, medical devices or even the sanitary personnel's own clothing (gowns), so these surfaces are potential sources of infection. The study carried out by researchers from IDIVAL and the Spanish Network for Research in Infections Diseases (REIPI) has shown that these bacteria are not only capable of surviving for a long time on these surfaces, but also they will not lose their ability to infect patients.

One of the main tools bacteria have to cause infections is their ability to adhere to solid surfaces or tissues. Although bacteria were more than 6 weeks in a dry, nutrient-free environment (for example, on a white lab coat), bacteria of the genus Acinetobacter quickly regained their adhesion capacity after going from room temperature (the one in the hospital) to 37°C (the temperature of human body). This indicates that stress due to lack of water and nutrients that bacteria face in the hospital environment does not prevent them from being put back in contact with a patient, they can be activated quickly and cause an infection.

Itziar Chapartegui González, one of the authors and researcher at IDIVAL, has published the complete sequence of the genome of one of these bacteria. This information can now be used to understand how these bacteria persist in hospitals and how they are capable of causing infections despite having to survive long under stress conditions. 

IDIVAL Microbiology Lab. Itziar Chapartegui González


Acinetobacter pittii maintains its ability to form biofilms on inanimate surfaces after long-term desiccation. Bravo Z*, Chapartegui-González I*, Lázaro-Díez M, Ramos-Vivas J. J Hosp Infect. 2017 Jul 29. pii: S0195-6701(17)30413-9. 

Whole-Genome Sequence of Acinetobacter pittii HUMV-6483 Isolated from Human Urine. Chapartegui-González I*, Lázaro-Díez M, Redondo-Salvo S, Alted-Pérez L, Ocejo-Vinyals JG, Navas J, Ramos-Vivas J. Genome Announc. 2017 Jul 20;5(29).