Breaking the chain of infection

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  Posted by: Dental Design      27th August 2021

Infection control is a complex subject. In fact, disease transmission is a multi-faceted process, and one that needs to be known in great detail to truly appreciate the importance of infection control measures.

After all, breaking the “chain of infection” is paramount in order to keep staff and patients safe against the threat of outbreaks, especially as the very nature of pathogens is opportunistic.

What is the chain of infection?

In a nutshell are typically four links in the journey of how an infectious pathogen can be transferred and once reaching a new host the chain begins again, in an endless cycle that, if left unbroken, could potentially lead to significant outbreaks of the illness in question.

The links are as follows:


As the name suggests, this link refers to the infectious pathogen itself. Regardless of whether this is a virus or bacterium, fungi or parasite, all microbes that can spread disease fall under this umbrella. Examples may include mostly relatively harmless illnesses such as the common cold virus, to far more serious conditions such as Coronavirus or influenza.

The risk of transmission will vary depending on the nature of the pathogen. Factors that can influence this include the number of potentially infectious pathogens present, their efficacy at surviving outside of the human body, their potency and more.


This part of the chain refers to where infectious disease may survive and multiply. In most cases, this will mean the human body, though it can also apply to animals, plants and other living organisms. Water sources, food, soil and other similar environments can be regarded as the reservoir, assuming they provide the correct conditions for pathogens to reproduce.

Reservoir may also refer to a location – for example, in your practice it could be the waiting room or the wash room – anywhere where the pathogen can proliferate and put people at risk.

Mode of transmission

In many ways, this is the part of the chain that professionals need to be the most aware of. Modes of transmission are diverse and many are dictated by the nature of the pathogen, the reservoir it exists in, and the way it has been released from the reservoir (which may be referred to as its portal of exit).

Modes of transmission are usually split into two categories – direct and indirect.

Indirect transmission is a common method for the spread of disease. For instance, a person sneezing will expel respiratory droplets. These may then settle on a surface, making their way onto another person’s hands and then infecting that individual when they touch their mouth (for example). On the other hand, direct transmission is, as the name suggests, more direct and more to do with proximity and direct infection between two individuals. This can include an infected person being too close to someone else and spreading the disease via respiratory droplets as they speak, or a very direct route such as infected individual kissing someone who is not currently infected with a particular pathogen.  

There are typically three main modes of transmission available for the majority of pathogens person to person, air to person and surface to person. 

Susceptible host

The final link of the chain is a susceptible host – often, an individual prone to infection, which could be a person over the age of 65 or those with compromised immune systems, though anyone can become a susceptible host depending on the nature of the pathogen. At this stage, the pathogens have infiltrated the defences of the individual and they have become a new reservoir, where the pathogens will multiply, become infectious, and start the chain all over again.

As you can see, in order to stop this cyclical process, it’s absolutely essential to use infection control products and certain behavioural measures that can break the chain at any one of these points, preventing the spread of illness and helping to create a safe environment for all.

Hands. Face. Space. Fresh Air

Through a combination of social distancing, face masks and appropriate use of infection control products and ventilation, the chain of infection can be broken at multiple stages. Government guidance created the ‘Hands. Face. Space. Fresh Air’ campaign to help individuals to safeguard themselves from disease transmission. Measures such as social distancing and enhanced PPE can help to disrupt the chain of infection at multiple stages, but it is also through the use of high-quality cleaning products that professionals and patients can be help to be kept safe.

One excellent option is the Steri-7 Xtra range of disinfectants from Initial Medical. Comprised of surface cleaners, handwashes and more, these products effectively kill 99.99% of pathogens including Coronavirus*, so that they can break the chain of infection at multiple links, preventing further transmission.

As an added element of protection, these innovative solutions feature Reactive Barrier Technology – a protective property that prevents recolonisation of pathogens on treated surfaces for up to 72 hours so long as the products aren’t wiped away.**

Breaking the chain can be simple

The chain of infection is varied and versatile, meaning that you need cleaning and infection control solutions that offer a similarly innovative defence. By investing in products that are both effective and long-lasting, you can significantly lower the risk of disease transmission in your practice.


*Tested against feline Coronavirus, a surrogate virus for Coronavirus.
**Source: Steri-7


For further information please visit or Tel: 0870 850 4045


Rebecca Waters, Category Manager, Initial Medical

Rebecca has worked in the Healthcare sector for the past 17years and was a Research Chemist with Bayer Cropscience prior to joining Rentokil Initial in 2003.  She keeps up to date on all developments within the clinical waste management industry and is an active member of the CIWM, SMDSA and BDIA.  




About Initial Medical Waste 

Initial Medical set the standard in healthcare and infectious waste management in the UK, providing a reliable, effective and fully compliant service built around customer needs and delivered by our highly trained local teams.  We are ISO 9001:2015 accredited, with technology fully integrated into our operations, providing full traceability of service delivery, electronic waste documentation and the best customer experience possible. We also offer innovative healthcare waste management services and infection control products, to help break the chain of transmission and prevent cross contamination.  

Initial Medical are a company with a ‘World Class’ Health and Safety record, and ISO 45001:2018 accreditation. We are also accredited to ISO 14001:2015 environmental standards, and pride ourselves on our sustainable approach with a focus on delivering eco-friendly products and operational solutions.

For further information please visit or Tel: 0870 850 4045

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