To assess the effect of laundry procedures on fabric-associated bacteria, a standard method of enumeration is needed. We evaluated six methods for enumeration of Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus aureus seeded (10(2) and 10(5) CFU/100 cm2 of fabric area) onto sterilized hospital sheets and terry . Two methods involved maceration of seeded swatches in broth followed by passage of the broth through a 0.45-micron-pore-size, 47-mm-diameter filter membrane. Three methods involved agitation of seeded swatches in broth with a paint shaker and membrane filtration of the broth to recover eluted bacterial cells, and the final method involved direct enumeration of cells on fabrics by overlaying seeded swatches with agar containing triphenyltetrazolium chloride as an indicator. The most convenient recovery method employed a 90-s agitation followed by serial dilution of broths and membrane filtration. This method provided 44/57% (low seed/high seed) recovery of E. coli from sheets and 133/31% from terry and 34/74% recovery of S. aureus from sheets and 58/57% from terry . Although maceration provided similar recovery of E. coli and S. aureus, it is a less-practical method. The direct enumeration method was ineffective for enumerating gram-positive bacteria. We conclude that either the agitation or maceration method used enumerated the seeded bacteria to within 1 log10 of their expected number and can be used to assess the bactericidal effectiveness of various steps in the laundering process
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