COVID-19: Q&A with PDI Infection Prevention Experts

Author: Caitlin Stowe MPH, CPH, CPHQ, CIC and James Clayton

Categories: Articles May 21, 2020
Q&A-with-James-and-Caitlin

After news broke that we began testing our products for efficacy against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, we sat down with our infection prevention experts, Director of Laboratory Sciences, James Clayton, and Clinical Affairs Research Manager, Caitlin Stowe MPH, CPH, CPHQ, CIC, to help answer a series of frequently asked questions:

Q. Does the infection control community need to develop any new disinfectants specifically for this coronavirus?

James Clayton: The SARS-CoV-2 virus belongs to a family of viruses that have a lipid envelope on the outside of their structure. This fragile envelope is expected to make the virus highly susceptible to disinfectants, just like cousins of the virus such as MERS and SARS. We do not expect any new chemistries are needed and this will be confirmed once data is generated on SARS-CoV-2; PDI could be one of the first companies with data on the novel virus. 

Q. What is the difference between household cleaners and PDI’s hospital-grade disinfectants?

James Clayton: PDI’s hospital grade disinfectants are designed and tested to tackle epidemiologically important pathogens, including bacteria, fungi, viruses and mycobacteria. A select few household cleaners can also be effective against the full spectrum of pathogens, but typically have long contact times and/or lack important emerging pathogens like MDROS and Candida auris. 

Q. As the EPA guidelines continue to be updated, how is that information shared throughout the hospital to ensure everyone is adhering to best practices? 

Caitlin Stowe: With the continuously evolving guidance from the EPA and CDC, it’s crucial that there is a clear flow of information throughout the hospital to ensure staff members are informed of any changes. The most effective way to do this is to establish a clear channel of communication that has been agreed upon by key members in the hospital.   This can include the marketing and communications department, the infection prevention team, and the leaders of the nursing and ancillary staff.   Having this communication channel will allow for any new and pertinent information to be effectively communicated to those who need to know most in a timely manner.  

Q. Along with using the right product, are there any particularly critical steps that people should follow to ensure they’re getting the full effect of the formulation? (e.g. timing, ensuring the full surface is wet)

Caitlin Stowe: As with any product, in order to get the full use or effect, it’s crucial to read the manufacturer’s instructions for use- and this includes wipes as well! It’s important to evaluate the surface and if it’s visibly soiled, you need to use at least one wipe to remove the visible soil and clean, and at least another separate, fresh wipe to perform the disinfection process.  It’s also important to ensure that you’re using enough wipes for the task- the surface should be visibly wet after applying the wipes, wet enough that it should take the entire contact time to dry.  If the surface is drying before the stated contact time, it’s important to re-wipe the surface to maintain wetness until the contact time has elapsed. Once the surface is wet, make sure to leave it alone and untouched for the contact time.  It’s important to let the disinfectant do its’ job and kill the bugs on the surface.  If all of these steps are followed, then you can feel confident that the surface or item is disinfected and ready to use 

Q. When SARS-CoV-2 first emerged, a lot of the science and recommendations were – out of necessity – based on our knowledge of other coronaviruses. Now that we have more data and direct testing, does it spread and respond to disinfectants the way scientists originally predicted?”

James Clayton: Research on how the virus responds to disinfecting chemistries is in its infancy, however early data suggests that the virus is as susceptible to disinfectants as scientists predicted. PDI could be one of the first companies to generate SARS-CoV-2 data on commercially available products, which will provide a deeper understanding of how the virus responds. 

Q. How did the testing partnership with Microbac come about?  

James Clayton: PDI has had a long standing relationship with Microbac for many years and it was natural for both parties to come together in this time of need. Microbac has always been on the forefront of emerging pathogens, having tested recent outbreaks of Influenza H1N1 (2009), SARS and MERS. They are one of the few commercial labs in the world with the combination of pathogenic virus and EPA testing expertise. PDI prides itself on providing its customers with highly effective infection control solutions and immediately invested in partnering with Microbac to begin testing vs. SARS-CoV-2. 

Q. How exactly are the products tested against SARS-CoV-2?

James Clayton: Testing the efficacy of disinfectants against a virus involves several steps. First, the lab will apply the virus to a surface and let it dry. Then, they will apply one of PDI’s products to the surface, recover the liquid, put it back into cell culture, and test whether the virus is still infectious. Unlike working with bacteria, the scientists cannot see the virus, but use the cytopathic effects on cells to understand whether a virus has remained infectious after treatment.