Reduction in the microbial load on high-touch surfaces in hospital rooms by treatment with a portable saturated steam vapor disinfection system

Jonathan D. Sexton, Benjamin D. Tanner, Sheri L. Maxwell, Charles P Gerba

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

23 Scopus citations


Background: Recent scientific literature suggests that portable steam vapor systems are capable of rapid, chemical-free surface disinfection in controlled laboratory studies. This study evaluated the efficacy of a portable steam vapor system in a hospital setting. Methods: The study was carried out in 8 occupied rooms of a long-term care wing of a hospital. Six surfaces per room were swabbed before and after steam treatment and analyzed for heterotrophic plate count (HPC), total coliforms, methicillin-intermediate and -resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MISA and MRSA), and Clostridium difficile. Results: The steam vapor device consistently reduced total microbial and pathogen loads on hospital surfaces, to below detection in most instances. Treatment reduced the presence of total coliforms on surfaces from 83% (40/48) to 13% (6/48). Treatment reduced presumptive MISA (12/48) and MRSA (3/48) to below detection after cleaning, except for 1 posttreatment isolation of MISA (1/48). A single C difficile colony was isolated from a door push panel before treatment, but no C difficile was detected after treatment. Conclusion: The steam vapor system reduced bacterial levels by >90% and reduced pathogen levels on most surfaces to below the detection limit. The steam vapor system provides a means to reduce levels of microorganisms on hospital surfaces without the drawbacks associated with chemicals, and may decrease the risk of cross-contamination.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)655-662
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican Journal of Infection Control
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2011



  • C difficile
  • disinfectant
  • Fomites
  • MRSA

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Infectious Diseases
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Epidemiology
  • Health Policy

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