Antibiotic-resistant hospital superbug C. difficile remains on surgical gowns and equipment despite being treated with disinfectant, a new study reveals.

Researchers sprayed gowns with the bacteria and treated them with disinfectant, according to the American Society for Microbiology.

The chlorine-based disinfectant failed to clear the gowns of C. difficile and infectious spores remained on stainless steel and vinyl flooring.

“The spores of the bacteria were able to grow after decontamination,” said principal investigator Tina Joshi, a lecturer in molecular microbiology at the University of Plymouth in England.

“This shows that spores are becoming resistant and we need to reconsider how we decontaminate and employ hygiene measures in hospitals.”

The motivation for the research was a case in an American hospital in which gowns were suspected of contributing to the transmission of C. difficile, said Dr. Joshi.

The gowns were found to be contaminated with the deadly 027 strain of C. difficile.

“Due to this resistance, it may be prudent to reconsider how much biocide we use currently and to ensure infection control is standardized,” Dr. Joshi said.

“This work can be applied to hospitals anywhere in the world and should help inform future guidelines on infection control and biocides.”

The researchers examined the ability of C. difficile to stick to and transfer from surgical gowns, in order to assess the potential for transmission to patients.

To test this they applied C. difficile spores in sterilized water on surgical gowns for differing lengths of time to copy the transfer of infectious bodily fluids in a hospital setting.

The numbers of spores recovered from gowns did not increase with contact time, suggesting that the spore transfer between surfaces occurred within the first 10 seconds of contact, said Dr. Joshi.

Single-use gowns are ineffective at trapping spores and preventing onward transmission, according to investigators.

This highlights the importance of ensuring medical workers put on the gowns when entering and dispose of them when leaving a single room to prevent transmission, the AMS wrote.

New strains of C. difficile are responsible for hard-to-treat cases of severe illness, according to the ASM.

Symptoms of C. difficile can range from diarrhea to fever, rapid heartbeat, inflammation of the intestines and kidney failure.

Meanwhile, a study in April from the University of Michigan Medical Center found between 11 per cent and as much as 28 per cent of tested hospital bedside curtain samples contained bacteria resistant to powerful antibiotics.

The new research was published on July 12 in Applied and Environmental Microbiology, a journal of the American Society for Microbiology.