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The role of textiles as fomites in the healthcare environment: a review of the infection control risk

Lucy Owen and Katie Laird Infectious Disease Research Group, The Leicester School of Pharmacy, De Montfort University, Leicester, United

Infectious diseases are a significant threat in both healthcare and community settings. Healthcare-associated infections (HCAIs) in particular are a leading cause of complications during hospitalization. Contamination of the healthcare environment is recognized as a source of infectious disease yet the significance of porous surfaces including healthcare textiles as fomites is not well understood. It is currently assumed there is little infection risk from textiles due to a lack of direct epidemiological evidence. Decontamination of healthcare textiles is achieved with heat and/or detergents by commercial or in-house laundering with the exception of healthcare worker uniforms which are laundered domestically in some countries. The emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic has increased the need for rigorous infection control including effective decontamination of potential fomites in the healthcare environment. This article aims to review the evidence for the role of textiles in the transmission of infection, outline current procedures for laundering healthcare textiles, and review studies evaluating the decontamination efficacy of domestic and industrial laundering.