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New infection control research for schools announced

Published 25th May, 2011 by Neil Nixon

New infection control research for schools announced

Keeping school facilities clean and hygienic is imperative for all cleaning and facility managers to reduce the spread of viruses and infections. New research by Queen Mary, University of London and Albany Hygiene Facilities will investigate infection risks in schools, funded by a Knowledge Transfer Partnership. The findings will inform the development of practical solutions to help break the chain of infection and decrease cross-contamination.

The new research will take a phased approach. Phase one will involve screening the toilet facilities of London based schools. Interim findings are planned to be released about now before phase two widens the examination to outside the washroom area. Infection control policy guidance, based on the outcome of the research, is hoped to be released by the end of the year.

To date, no documented scientific research has been undertaken in schools that accurately identifies the level of infection and type of bacteria breeding. In addition, there is currently no clear guidance on what schools need to clean with, how often and when.

Postdoctoral researcher, Dr Hermine Mkrtchyan, has been appointed to investigate infection risks in schools. Dr Mkrtchyan was selected from approximately 60 candidates who applied for the 30 month post and will be working with Dr Ron Cutler, principal investigator of the project and director of biomedical science at Queen Mary. Dr Mkrtchyan has over seven years of experience in the field of natural product chemistry, microbiology and molecular biology research, mainly in the context of infectious diseases, with a number of published papers and patents.

Infection outbreaks and illness have a significant economic and educational impact on schools. It is hoped that Dr Mkrtchyan's research will uncover the real state of infection risks in schools, which will then help to develop a guide for schools on how to manage infection control effectively.

Annual statistics show 11.7 million school days were lost in the spring 2010 term alone due to child illness including flu, norovirus and E.coli. According to Dr Ron Cutler this illness rate is only going to increase: "Infection threats to schools are influenced in part by external changes, such as increased international travel and antibiotic misuse and resistance. Climate change may also create the catalysts for increasing levels of infection as well as more unpredictable infection threats in the future. This research appointment will go a long way in helping us provide schools with the insights and guidance they need."

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