In these days of antibiotic resistance and multidrug-resistant pathogens the importance of hygiene and water hygiene continues to increase. Water hygiene is an important component in a thorough and consistent hospital hygiene policy. Many different properties of the hospital’s own water supply network (temperatures, materials, age of the pipes, stagnation, disused sections of pipe etc.) can cause the quality of the drinking water to differ from that supplied at the point of entry. Regulations require that samples be taken regularly to maintain transparency with regard to the quality of the drinking water being used. Robert Koch- Institute guidelines, whose status is similar to laws, make recommendations on the hygienic requirements for preventing infection in hospitals.
Potential sources of nosocomial infection by waterborne bacteria include taps, showers, endoscopes (if not correctly reprocessed), dental and ENT units, individual disinfectant dispensers and washbasin drains (traps). Patients whose immune responses are suppressed or weakened are at particular risk.
When water quality is poor (facultative pathogens are present), the use of sterile filters is a proven method of guaranteeing the safety of patients until the water supply problems have been remedied and is also recognised by health authorities. Even “good” water samples cannot guarantee permanent safety. Biofilms can exist in water pipes and can shed microbes leading to sudden high concentrations of pathogens in the water.