(By: Karen Stockdale)
What are they?
What is the deal with antimicrobial fabrics? How do they work, and more importantly, WHAT do they work against?
Calling all germophobes – this is your article! (Who ISN’T a germophobe by now, anyway?)
Antimicrobial fabrics have been around for a few years, but infection preventionists everywhere are now taking a second look. First, let us look at the types of fabrics, what they can be used for (besides scrubs), and then investigate how effective they are.
- Silver alloy embedded – these fabrics are made of the typical scrub fabric materials. For a more in-depth discussion on fabric types, check out my other article here. Silver has long been used as an antibacterial material by preventing bacterial cell division.
- Organosilane-based quaternary ammonium and hydrophobic fluoroacrylate copolymer emulsion. Say what? Let’s call that a “combination of antimicrobial chemical treatments”. Better. These treatments either cause bacterial cells to burst or attach to the cell DNA and restrict replication.
Antimicrobial fabrics are common these days – everything from mouse pads to hospital curtains and upholstery. The military also uses these fabrics for various applications. Scrubs are a natural extension of great possible uses for these fabrics.
The Studies Show:
Mixed reviews all around. Several blind studies have been done on nurses wearing antimicrobial versus traditional scrubs. One of the first studies at Virginia Commonwealth University in 2012, showed a significantly reduced bacterial burden on antimicrobial scrubs. However, other studies since have shown virtually no difference. Another study showed significantly less transmissible MRSA (Methycillin-Resistant Staph Aureaus, a common drug-resistant bacteria). Despite the mixed studies, several scrub manufacturers continue to produce these scrubs – and most of these companies believe that they show some effectiveness when combined with good hand hygiene (always!).
So, killing bacteria has some pretty great other benefits:
- Less smell – inhibited bacteria growth, means less odor from sweat!
- Fewer stains – Growth of bacteria sets stains in, and antimicrobial fabric resists organic stains.
- Fluid resistant – You know what I’m talking about. Who wouldn’t want that? You come into all kinds of things during a shift. Keep it on the outside.
- Resistance to fading – Treatments to the fabrics eliminate fading over time.
- Easy care – no difference in the way you wash and dry scrubs.
Although antimicrobial scrubs are a great idea to provide an extra layer of protection for you and your patients, there are some important caveats you need to know:
- Antimicrobial scrubs are not designed to have ANY effectiveness against viruses. Only bacterial pathogens. Nope, no coronavirus protection – sorry.
- These scrubs absolutely do not take the place of proper protective gear. Suit up.
- These scrubs do NOT diminish the need for hand hygiene. Hand washing always comes first! (and last).
Now that you are equipped with all the details and knowledge about antimicrobial scrubs, check out the variety offered by some of your favorite brands. Time to go shopping!