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Jan. 24, 2000 (Atlanta) -- For people seeking the best protection against disease-causing organisms in home kitchens and bathrooms, commercial disinfectants do a better job at eliminating them than do natural, environmentally friendly products. According to research in the North Carolina Statewide Program for Infection Control and Epidemiology (NC-SPICE), the commercial disinfectants tested killed 99.9% of bugs, including Salmonella, Escherichia coli(E. coli), and vancomycin-resistant Enterococci (VRE). The natural products eliminated only 90% of the bugs.

"We found the natural products were far less effective than commercial household disinfectants," lead researcher William A. Rutala, MD, tells WebMD. "To our knowledge, the activity of commercial household disinfectants against antibiotic-resistant microbes has not been reported previously." Rutala is a professor of medicine in the University of North Carolina (UNC) School of Medicine in Chapel Hill, director of NC-SPICE, and director of Hospital Epidemiology, Occupational Health and Safety Program at UNC Hospitals.

Rutala points out that more than 30 million food-borne infections have been estimated to occur each year, resulting in more than 9,000 deaths. The National Center for Infectious Diseases (NCID) estimates that 10,000-20,000 cases of infection from E. coli occur in the U.S. each year. Infection often leads to bloody diarrhea and occasionally to kidney failure. Most illness has been associated with eating undercooked, contaminated ground beef.

In this latest study, reported in the January issue of the Journal of Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology, hospital disinfectants tested included TBQ, Vesphene, and ethanol. Household disinfectants tested were Clorox, ethanol, Mr. Clean Ultra, Lysol Disinfectant Spray, and Lysol Antibacterial Kitchen Cleaner. Vinegar and baking soda were the natural products tested.

The investigators tested the products against a variety of bacteria, representing medically important pathogens likely to contaminate the surface environment in the home: Staphylococcus aureus, Enterococcus, Salmonella, E. coli, and Pseudomonas aeruginosa. This study also tested the activity of household disinfectants against antibiotic-resistant microbes such as VRE, and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), a bacteria commonly found on the skin.

The researchers tested the effect of the disinfectants after 30-second and after five-minute exposures, then cultured the microbes to see how many remained. All of the hospital and household disinfectants were highly effective against the tested bacteria. The natural products, vinegar and baking soda, were less effective than the hospital and household cleaners.

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