Fighting bacteria in the classroom

The world’s first antimicrobial classroom, created at a primary school in the south east of England, saw levels of bacteria reduced by 96 per cent. This was achieved by refurbishing the classroom with furniture, fittings and materials protected with BioCote antimicrobial technology, meaning that products such as desks, seating and even the paint on the walls had technology built-in that offers proven protection against bacteria such as E. coli and MRSA, mould and the H1N1 flu virus.
    
Any communal environment is not only shared by people but also the varied bacteria associated with everyday life. A school classroom is of course no different. All communal environments contain many different types of bacteria and microbes, and whilst not all are dangerous, there are some that are. School classrooms provide an ideal scenario for colonisation by bacteria – the close contact of pupils for prolonged periods, and numerous commonly touched, communal surfaces provide almost perfect circumstances for microbes to not only thrive and survive but pass from pupil to pupil either directly or via shared surfaces. Hygiene in these environments is therefore important in order to reduce the risk and the potential consequences associated with bacterial infections. Good hygiene guidance for education providers from government includes regular, thorough environmental cleaning.
    
However, it is important to note that cleaning practices and isolated cleaning are unlikely to fully address the problem of bacterial contamination. Fortunately, new developments in antimicrobial technology now offer the ability to create indoor environments with materials that continuously act to reduce the presence of microbes contaminating them, meaning an even higher level of cleanliness can be achieved.

The Study
An investigation measured and compared the numbers of bacteria in two classrooms, both at the same primary school. Products protected with BioCote antimicrobial technology had been extensively applied to one classroom whilst the second was unchanged.
In the autumn of 2014, a medium-sized UK primary school was selected as suitable for the purposes of this environmental study. The classroom, including desks, chairs, tables, door handles, light switches and carpets was completely refurbished with BioCote partner products and was treated with BioCote antimicrobial technology.

A second classroom was included in this study to serve as a comparison. Both classrooms were used and cleaned as normal. Typical daily cleaning of the school classrooms involved wiping the sinks, draining board and table tops, sweeping the hard floor and vacuuming carpet. In addition, a weekly clean consisted of the dusting of computers, shelves and worktops and mopping of non-absorbent floors.
    
In order to determine the levels of bacteria, all items were swabbed and then processed in the microbiology laboratory. A weekly collection of swab samples began in November and extended for three weeks, with antimicrobial products swabbed from the antimicrobial classroom and the corresponding unprotected products and surfaces in the unprotected classroom. The swabs were collected before and after the school day and processed appropriately in the microbiology laboratory to count the bacteria recovered from both classrooms.

Results
A comparison of the average number of bacteria recovered from all BioCote protected products with all equivalent products in the unprotected classroom revealed almost 96 per cent less bacterial contamination in the antimicrobial classroom.
    
The difference in average numbers of bacteria recovered from the various products of each classroom varied from 30 per cent to 99.99 per cent.
    
In more specific detail, there was 97 per cent less bacteria on desk chairs, 70 per cent less on carpets, 99 per cent less on door handles and 86 per cent less on sockets.
    
The difference in the total counts of bacteria between the classrooms was 96 per cent. A comparison of the average number of bacteria recovered from all BioCote protected products with all equivalent products in the unprotected classroom revealed almost 96 per cent less bacterial contamination in the antimicrobial classroom.
    
The difference in the average numbers of bacteria recovered from the various products of each classroom varied from 30 per cent to 99.99 per cent.

Discussion
The two classrooms studied were chosen due to their similarities in use, location and demographics. From this basis, the only difference between the two classrooms was the presence of antimicrobial technology.
    
Therefore it is reasonable to view the reduced counts of bacteria on the antimicrobial products as a direct result of those products continued antimicrobial performance.
    
Previous real-life studies conducted by BioCote in various sectors – such as in a hospital and care home – to measure the levels of bacteria on BioCote protected surfaces also reported them to be less contaminated than their unprotected counterparts.
    
Before release into the market, products protected with BioCote technology are validated for acceptably high antimicrobial efficacy. Whilst it is clear antimicrobial technology should not be viewed as a replacement to cleaning, considerably fewer bacteria present on antimicrobial products presents a compelling case for the application of antimicrobial technology to hygiene-critical or close-contact environments such as in the school classroom.
    
Based on this data and other studies undertaken by BioCote, a 95 per cent reduction when compared to an unprotected environment is typical when BioCote technology is used in the real world. Creating an antimicrobial environment in any classroom is also easy to do – all BioCote protected products featured throughout the study are commercially available and, coupled with good hygiene practices, provide the ideal solution to a cleaner, healthier environment for pupils and staff in educational environments.
    
In the next part of the study, BioCote is exploring the identity of microbes recovered from both classrooms to understand the type of bacteria living on the surfaces. As well as this, the BioCote team are keen to understand what potential antimicrobial technology has for reducing absenteeism due to sickness.

Further information
For the full results of the study, visit tinyurl.com/p3d7l98 or www.biocote.com

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