Bubble Trouble in Hospitals: Children’s Toy Found To Contain Deadly Bugs

Children, although wild and carefree, are fragile beings who tend to be very susceptible to bacteria and infections. Upon arrival at hospitals, children are given bubble solutions to calm their nerves. Ironically, a study found that these bubble solutions, given to children to make them feel at ease, are a possible source of nasty and serious infections. We often try to protect our children from bacteria found on money, shopping carts, toilet seats, and door handles; therefore, the fact that harmful bacteria can be found in something given to our children at a hospital – a place where they should be safe – is rather alarming.

Usually scared, nervous, and uncooperative, children are given bubble solutions for therapeutic play to calm their nerves. These bubble solutions create supposedly create bubbles that float effortlessly through the air: who doesn’t like bubbles? A study conducted by Dr. Valsan Verghese, from Edmonton, proves that these solutions can be dangerous to our kids. In the study, which was presented at the AAMI-CACMID microbiology conference this year, seven separate bubble solutions were cultured on blood (BAP), MacConkey and Phytone agars. The solutions with positive growth were subcultured for identification, then five new bottles of the same solution were acquired and cultured for further confirmation. Also, the Hospital Infection Control database was cross-referenced for healthcare-associated infection due to the agents isolated.

All of the tested bubble solutions from the hospital contained both Achromabacter xylosoxidans and Pseudomonas pseudoalcaligenes bacteria, while none of the purchased bubble solutions showed any bacterial or fungal growth. These bacteria can cause healthcare-associated infections, which are acquired during the course of treatment at, or a visit to, a healthcare facility. Such infections are given the name HAI once it has been proven that the patient did not enter the healthcare facility with the present infection. Children that visit hospitals often have weaker immune systems than adults; therefore they can be at a higher risk of developing infections. To ensure that hospitals and other healthcare facilities reduce the apparent risk to children, the study suggests changing brands of bubble solutions to one without bacteria or fungal growth, and regular microbiological surveillance of the bubble solutions.

This study concluded that all the bubble solutions from the hospital contained Pseudomonas pseudoalcaligenes – a bacteria belonging to the Pseudomonas aeruginosa family. The latter is a prominent cause of infection, a frequent cause of healthcare-associated infections, as well as one of the most common pathogen isolated from patients who have been confined to a healthcare facility for longer than one week. Essentially, Pseudomonas aeruginosa is a bacterium we prefer our children not come in contact with. By giving children these bubble toys, we are increasing the child’s chance of developing an HAI – something that should be unacceptable and only reemphasize the dire need of superior infection control practices.

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One Response to “Bubble Trouble in Hospitals: Children’s Toy Found To Contain Deadly Bugs”

  1. Tara G. says:

    I would love to see a copy of the poster from this study – do you still have it?

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