Papers And Originals

Sources of Gas Gangrene in Hospital

Br Med J 1969; 2 doi: (Published 10 May 1969) Cite this as: Br Med J 1969;2:333
  1. G. A. J. Ayliffe,
  2. E. J. L. Lowbury


    Of four cases of postoperative gas gangrene in three hospitals three followed amputation of legs with gangrenous lesions, and one followed gastrectomy. Clostridium welchii was isolated from the wounds and the faeces of each patient; small numbers of Cl. welchii were found on the floors of the theatres where the operations had been performed.

    Two infections occurred in one hospital on successive days. Typing of strains of Cl. welchii from these patients showed that they were serologically distinct. Further studies suggested that in each of the four cases infection was probably acquired from the patients' intestinal flora, probably through faecal contamination of skin.

    In 76 patients sampling of the skin with surface contact plates showed occasional heavy contamination of the thighs, groins, and buttocks with Cl. welchii, most of which were present as spores or sporing bacilli; Cl. welchii was more commonly found in patients with incontinence of faeces. Compresses of povidone-iodine applied for 30 minutes were found greatly to reduce the numbers of Cl. welchii, and swabbing with 70% alcohol was effective in some cases; washing with soap and water had no effect on the numbers of Cl. welchii on the skin.