Y M Muthiani, V N Matiru, C Bii


This study examined the pathogenic microbial levels in second hand undergarments and compared the effectiveness of disinfection methods used to reduce microbial load in the garments. Of special interest were pathogenic microbes in undergarments such as panties, bras, socks and towels which were collected from various flea markets. The study was planned following prior casual questioning of consumers to find out the most common decontamination methods used on these clothes. Clothe samples collected from the Gikomba second hand market were examined in a biomedical laboratory for evidence of high levels and types of pathogenic microbes and persistence of the pathogenic microbes that can be attributed to skin infection after decontamination procedures. Culture and biochemical methods were used for investigation. A variety of potential skin pathogens were isolated from unwashed second hand undergarments, socks and towels. Several bacteria were isolated including Methicillin-resistant  Staphylococcus aureus  (MRSA) and Methicillin-sensitive  Staphylococcus aureus  (MSSA). The fungi isolated from the unwashed clothes included  Scopulariopsis brevicalis, Geotrichum candidum,  Scytalidium, Trichophyton mentagrophytes, Rhodotorula sp.,  Cladosporium sp., Candida tropicalis,  Candida glabrata  and Aspergilus flavus. Panties and bras had the highest count of both bacteria and fungi. The mycoflora was not limited to dermatophytes such as Trichophyton but other fungi exist such as Alternaria alternata which are pathogenic. In this study, the clothes were washed with grade 2 laundry bar soap. After washing there was a reduction in the bacterial (t12  =  9.6, P  <  0.001) and yeast  (t12  =  3.5, P  > 0.005)  plate counts  but  therefore was a no significant reduction in mold counts (t12 = 1.1, P > 0.005). The kill time for both Jik and Savlon against the MRSA isolates from clothes was 2 minutes. The concentrations of Omo used do not kill the MRSA isolates at 10 min. The study showed that second hand clothes are frequently contaminated by several pathogenic bacteria and fungi, which remain on these clothes even after washing with ordinary bar soaps. The information obtained from this study form a basis of advising consumers, public, Ministry of Health and health workers dealing with immunocompromised patients in nursing homes and hospitals. The findings from the study also reinforce the need for appropriate disinfection and conscientious contact control precautions. 


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