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The research purpose was to identify textile properties that influence retention of fungal spores from contaminated fabrics by an air stream. Aspergillus spores are involved in lethal pulmonary infections among immunosuppressed hospital patients. Reduction in air contamination in hospital isolation areas has been achieved through elimination of facility sources and through air filtration systems. Information is scarce concerning release of spores from street clothing worn by hospital staff and visitors. An environmental chamber was used to contaminate fabrics with dry spore aerosol by sedimentation. An airflow chamber was built to observe spore redispersal patterns from contaminated fabrics. A gravimetric aerosol monitor was used to record the dispersal patterns over time. The most important factors in spore release behavior were fiber surface morphology, moisture content and available fiber surface area per fabric area. The most unusual propensity for storage and release of spores was seen in cotton fabrics. The physical structure of cotton allows the fiber to act as a storage device for spores. Micrographs of the soiling patterns on polyester fibers compared to cotton fibers indicate that static electricity is a factor in attraction of spores to fibers. Airflow experiments with desiccation and humidification of cellulosics confirmed that moisture content affects the release of spores. With increased available fiber surface area, the adhesion properties contributed by fiber surface and moisture content were augmented. This was observed for cotton and polyester fabrics, comparing release of spores between napped and clear finished specimens. Photomicrographs confirmed that the adhesion and entrapment of spores were primarily a fiber surface phenomenon as opposed to entrapment by the fabric or yarn structure for the fabrics in this experiment.
Aspergillus, clothing, textiles, fibers, infection control, fungi, immunosuppression, aspergillosis, particles, pariculate soil, surface adhesion
Consultant, Arthur D. Little, Inc., Cambridge, MA
Professor, Textiles and Apparel, MVR Hall, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY