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Objective To determine the extent and type of microbial contamination of computer peripheral devices used in healthcare settings, evaluate the effectiveness of interventions to reduce contamination of these devices and establish the risk of patient and healthcare worker infection from contaminated devices.

Design Systematic review

Methods We searched four online databases: MEDLINE, CINAHL, Embase and Scopus for articles reporting primary data collection on contamination of computer-related equipment (including keyboards, mice, laptops and tablets) and/or studies demonstrating the effectiveness of a disinfection technique. Pooling of contamination rates was conducted where possible, and narrative synthesis was used to describe the rates of device contamination, types of bacterial and viral contamination, effectiveness of interventions and any associations between device contamination and human infections.

Results Of the 4432 records identified, a total of 75 studies involving 2804 computer devices were included. Of these, 50 studies reported contamination of computer-related hardware, and 25 also measured the effects of a decontamination intervention. The overall proportion of contamination ranged from 24% to 100%. The most common microbial contaminants were skin commensals, but also included potential pathogens including methicillin-resistantStaphylococcus aureus, Clostridiumdifficile, vancomycin-resistantenterococci and Escherichia coli. Interventions demonstrating effective decontamination included wipes/pads using isopropyl alcohol, quaternary ammonium, chlorhexidine or dipotassium peroxodisulfate, ultraviolet light emitting devices, enhanced cleaning protocols and chlorine/bleach products. However, results were inconsistent, and there was insufficient data to demonstrate comparative effectiveness. We found little evidence on the link between device contamination and patient/healthcare worker colonisation or infection.

Conclusions Computer keyboards and peripheral devices are frequently contaminated; however, our findings do not allow us to draw firm conclusions about their relative impact on the transmission of pathogens or nosocomial infection. Additional studies measuring the incidence of healthcare-acquired infections from computer hardware, the relative risk they pose to healthcare and evidence for effective and practical cleaning methods are needed.


Originally published in BMJ Infectious Diseases.

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