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Doctors and Nurses Can Transmit Deadly Bacteria

October 11th, 2011

Hospitals are filled with all different kinds of bacteria. As doctors and nurses move from patient to patient, the conscientious ones wash their hands before examining each new patient. That simple act of using soap and water is the single best way to prevent the transmission of bacteria from one very sick person to another.

Now, a new study published in the American Journal of Infection Control reveals a startling source of bacterial infection: hospital uniforms.

According to an article on ScienceDaily, a team of researchers collected swab samples from three parts of the uniforms of 75 registered nurses and 60 medical doctors: the abdominal zone, sleeve ends, and pockets. Exactly half the samples taken contained some serious germs. Some of those samples contained deadly multi-drug resistant pathogens, including methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).

This means that we now have a new potential source of contamination in hospitals.

According to the World Health Organization, the risk of healthcare-associated infection (HAI) in some developing countries is as much as 20 times higher than in developed countries. Even in hospitals in developed countries like Israel, the site of this investigation, and the U.S., HAIs occur too often, can be deadly, and are expensive to treat.

For doctors, nurses, and hospitals that care about patient safety, this information should trigger new thoughts and new strategies for contamination control. What might these new strategies look like? Perhaps wearing a fresh lab coat when treating MRSA-infected patients, and changing the coat before seeing the next patient…  perhaps wearing and changing latex gloves more often… perhaps becoming more aware of potentially contaminated hands so that doctors and nurses don’t automatically reach into their pockets with germ-covered hands. Those are just ideas from this one blogger. Imagine what innovations could be discovered by infection professionals.

And please, Doctors and Nurses, wash your hands before examining patients! It is still the best infection prevention. (And if you happen to be a patient in a hospital, feel free to demand that all medical personnel wash their hands before touching you. Don’t worry if they roll their eyes; you may be saving yourself from an incurable bacterial infection.)

RESOURCES

To read a summary of the research published in the American Journal of Infection Control, click here: Nursing and physician attire as possible source of infection

To read the full ScienceDaily article, click here: Hospital Uniforms Contain Dangerous Bacteria