Clinicians' Clothing Found to Carry Pathogens

Cheryl Clark, September 1, 2011

Jerusalem researchers are resurrecting concerns about whether doctors' and nurses' uniforms and lab coats increase the risk of healthcare-associated infections. They sampled clothing worn by 135 clinicians and found the garments " frequently contaminated with potentially pathogenic bacteria."

The team led by Yonit Wiener-Well, MD, of the Shaare Zeked Medical Center in Jerusalem, cultured material taken from different sites of white coats or uniforms right around the umbilical area near the abdomen, from sleeves or side-pockets.

The samples were compared with uniforms received immediately prior from the hospital laundry.

Of 238 samples collected, exactly half were positive for some pathogen, they found. Physicians' garb contained the same number of pathogens as did nurses' attire. Many of the samples revealed the presence of multi-drug resistant organisms, including methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus or MRSA.

"Potentially pathogenic bacteria were isolated from at least one site of the gowns in 85 of the 135 participants (63%), 49 from nurses and 36 from physicians," they wrote in an article published in the September issue of the American Journal of Infection Control, the official publication of the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology. The research was conducted at Shaare Zeked, a 550-bed, university-affiliated hospital.

Because drug-resistant strains were found on long sleeves, the authors said "Wearing short-sleeved coats or even having physicians discard their white coats could further reduce the cloth-borne transmission of pathogens."

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