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Three swipes effective in cleaning plastics 


RACHEL SINGER 

News Staff 

Simply wiping an object tliree times with some 
salt water can be just as effective at cleaning 
plastic surfaces as using disinfectants, alcohols, 
or bleach, according to a University of Alberta 
researcher. 

Andrea Berendt. a fourth-year medical stu¬ 
dent. along with her supervisor Dr. Sarah Forgie, 
looked at how well different kinds of disinfec¬ 
tant wipes that are used in hospitals or house¬ 
holds can be used to clean bacteria off of plastic 
objects. The wipes from the grocery store were 
bleach-based and the wipes from the hospital 
had different types of disinfectants. They also 
used a tissue with saline, which is water with a 
0.9 per cent sodium chloride concentration. 

The different wipes were then used to clean 
artificially contaminated plastic petri dishes. 
The plates were swiped once, three times, or 
five limes. More than 1.000 petri dishes were 
wiped, and the researchers discovered to their 
surprise that the disinfecting wipes didn’t per¬ 
form particularly well. 

"At one swipe, the disinfecting wipes all per¬ 
formed equally well, which wasn’t a big shock 
and the saline on the tissue didn’t do very welL 
Bui at three swipes, even the saline on the tissue 
did just as well as the disinfecting wipes, which 
was the big surprise." Forgie said, 

Forgie and Berendt think that these results 
suggest that probably the mechanical action 
of wiping the plastic removes the bulk of the 


bacteria, rather than the type of disinfectant 
used. Therefore, both of them hope this could 
possibly lead to a change in how disinfectants 
are used in die community as well as in the 
hospital. 

"We hope what this means is that the 
mechanical removal of bacteria, die actual rub¬ 
bing. is the more important factor rather than 
the actual disinfectant ingredient. So that might 
mean we could stop using so many disinfec¬ 
tant ingredients which are expensive, which 
are sometimes iiarmful to the environment, 
and which can cause antimicrobial resistance 
among bacteria [...] and use much more read¬ 
ily available things like saline or perhaps tap 
water." Berendt said. 

A major issue with disinfectants being used 
in the community is the possibility of bacteria 
becoming resistant to the antimicrobial agents 
that are in many disinfectant products. 

“There is very good data to show that disin¬ 
fectants at home are not necessary and they are 
not helpful. [Researchers have] looked at family 
settings out in the community and having dis¬ 
infectants there is not helpful It can actually be 
harmful if we get resistance, so that's a big worry 
with using it in the community," Forgie said. 

Forgie hopes that the next phase of the project 
will look at actual plastic devices, such as pagers 
and cell phones, which are commonly used in 
the community as well as the hospitaL 

Their paper was published at the beginning of 
February in the American Journal of Infection 
Control. 



SQUEAKY CLEAN A U of A study shows that 
the wiping motion could trump disinfectant use. 


Watson shows 
competence in 
pirns, medicine 

WATSON • CONTINUED FROM PA6E1 

Watson's performance also dipped when 
obscure question forms were used, such as 
when the clue was simply the name of an actor, 
with the task to name a film that actor has also 
directed. 

However, just like human contestants, Watson 
can learn about the nature of categories during 
questions with little dollar value, making him 
better prepared for more valuable challenges 
Watson is also fitted with an algorithm for “pun 
detection” which improves performance, but 
doesn’t always catch a quip. 

Fifty-five games of Jeopardy! were played 
before the television showdown, of which 
Watson won 71 per cent, and came second the 
rest of the time. 

The advances that the DeepQA project has 
made opens the way for a variety of important 
real-life applications, including business intelli¬ 
gence. technical support, and health care. 

“There's a team of people working on the 
applications for the medical domain. There's 
a set of questions people wrote in the form of 
Jeopardy! clues on medical issues, for residents 
and interns. We took that set of questions and 
read them directly [and] for medical diagnosis, 
he surprisingly answered quite many questions." 
Fan said. 



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