Study Finds Dangerous Bacteria on More Than Half of Physicians’, Nurses’ Uniforms

More than 60% of hospital nurses’ and physicians’ uniforms tested positive for potentially dangerous bacteria, according to a study published in the American Journal of Infection Control.

A team of researchers in Israel led by Yonit Wiener-Well, MD, collected 238 swab samples from the abdominal zone, sleeve ends and pockets of 75 registered nurses’ and 60 physicians’ uniforms, then asked each participant to complete a questionnaire.

Although 79 (58%) of the participants claimed they changed their uniform daily and 104 (77%) described their attire’s hygiene level as “fair to excellent,” the study authors were able to isolate potentially pathogenic bacteria from at least one site on 85 participants’ uniforms (63%) – 119 samples (50%) in all.

The authors also noted they found antibiotic-resistant bacteria in 21 samples removed from nurses’ gowns and 6 samples removed from physicians’ gowns – including 8 cultures that grew methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus.

“Up to 60% of hospital staff’s uniform are colonized with potentially pathogenic bacteria, including drug-resistant organisms,” the authors wrote. “It remains to be determined whether these bacteria can be transferred to patients and cause clinically relevant infection.”

For more information:

Wiener-Well Y, Galuty M, Rudensky B, et al. Nursing and physician attire as possible source of nosocomial infections. Am J Infect Control. 2011. doi:10.1016/j.ajic.2010.12.016.

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