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Clinicians' Clothing Found to Carry Pathogens

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media, September 1, 2011

The number of resistant pathogens found was greater in clothing worn by men than by women, and greater on personnel working in medical departments compared with those working in surgical departments.

But the frequency of attire change, every day versus every other day, "was the only risk factor that reached statistical significance," the authors wrote.

The Israel report is just the latest in a string of contradicting papers about the dangers of fabric worn by providers who frequently work near and around pathogens, the types of fabric more conducive to harboring bacteria, and whether short-sleeved garments are better than long-sleeved ones.

Providers are supposed to wash their hands between each patient contact.

In Great Britain, healthcare providers are prohibited since 2007 from wearing long-sleeves in an effort to reduce that perceived risk of transmission.

However, in February, Marisha Burden, MD, interim chief of hospital medicine at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, and her colleagues put the British policy to the test.

They found not only found no significant difference between newly laundered uniforms or infrequently washed white coats in the amount of pathogens, they found little difference in the pathogens carried on short-sleeved shirts or on the skin at the wearer's wrists after an eight-hour work day.

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2 comments on "Clinicians' Clothing Found to Carry Pathogens"


Mary K (9/1/2011 at 9:17 PM)
If provider lab coats and scrubs are contaminated in the hospital laundry, what about the gowns patients wear? Ewww.

Lorrie Anderson (9/1/2011 at 12:29 PM)
But as Tom Walsh, MD, director of Cornell University's transplant-oncology ID program suggests: "Does that mean we abandon white coats? No, whatever garment we're wearing will be colonized." Dr. Walsh is researching a solution to the problem called VTT003 or Vestex. Details are in the August issue of the ACP Hospitalist where they describe "The white coat of the future."