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Clinicians' Clothing Found to Carry Pathogens

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media, September 1, 2011

"Our data do not support discarding long-sleeved white coats for short-sleeved uniforms that are changed on a daily basis," they wrote in their article, published in the Journal of Hospital Medicine.

Other efforts to ban reduce risk of infection by banning common children's toys in pediatric units, and magazines in hospital lobbies, visiting areas and physician offices have, when tested, found to be less effective than common-sense hand-hygiene and routine infection control.

The Jerusalem researchers stressed that their research did not examine whether healthcare workers' contaminated clothing increased germ transmission to patients.

"Whether healthcare workers' clothes play a major role in the transmission of pathogens to patients and development of nosocomial infections is not clear," they wrote. "Nonetheless, we believe that data suffice to formulate recommendations regarding healthcare workers' uniforms. Wearing a clean uniform daily, providing adequate laundering, improving hand hygiene practices, and using plastic aprons when performing tasks that may involve splashing or contact with body fluids likely will decrease the bacterial load on uniforms."

In a statement, APIC president Russell Olmstead cautioned against overreaction about risks posed by clinicians' clothing. "Any clothing that is worn by humans will become contaminated with microorganisms. The cornerstone of prevention remains the use of hand hygiene to prevent the movement of microbes from these surfaces to patients."


Cheryl Clark is senior quality editor and California correspondent for HealthLeaders Media. She is a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists.
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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."