The white coats and medical scrubs worn by hospital staff may harbor hazardous bacteria, a new study finds.
Researchers in Israel swabbed nurses' and physicians' uniforms and found potentially dangerous bacteria on more than 60 percent of the clothing items.
The team, from the Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem, analyzed swab samples collected from three parts — sleeve ends, pockets and abdominal area — of the uniforms of 75 registered nurses and 60 doctors.
Potentially dangerous bacteria were found on 60 percent of the doctors' uniforms and 65 percent of the nurses' uniforms. Especially dangerous drug-resistant bacteria were found in 21 of the samples from nurses' uniforms and six samples from doctors' uniforms. Eight of the samples had methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), which is becoming tough to fight using conventional antibiotics.
The bacteria on the uniforms may not pose a direct risk of disease transmission, but the findings suggest that many hospital patients are in close proximity to antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria, the researchers said.
"It is important to put these study results into perspective," Russell Olmsted, president of the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC), said in an association news release. "Any clothing that is worn by humans will become contaminated with microorganisms. The cornerstone of infection prevention remains the use of hand hygiene to prevent the movement of microbes from these surfaces to patients."
The study appears in the September issue of the American Journal of Infection Control, the official publication of APIC.