Uniforms harboring drug-resistant bugs

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More than 60% of healthcare workers' uniforms tested positive for multidrug-resistant pathogens, according to new study findings.

Investigators, who did their research in a hospital, collected swab samples from three parts of registered nurses' uniforms: the abdominal zone, sleeve ends and pockets. They found that 65% of RN uniforms harbored pathogens. From this group, 21 cultures from nurse uniforms contained multidrug-resistant pathogens, including eight cultures with methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus.

The researchers, led by Yonit Wiener-Well, M.D., of the Infectious Disease Unit at Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem, said that although the uniforms don't carry a direct risk of transmission, results indicate a prevalence of antibiotic resistance that is too close for comfort. Infection is the most common cause of hospital admission and death for long-term care residents, according to the World Health Organization.

Russell Olmsted, president of the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology, cautioned that more study is needed.

“Any clothing that is worn by humans will become contaminated with micro-organisms,” he said. “The cornerstone of infection prevention remains the use of hand hygiene to prevent the movement of microbes from these surfaces to patients.”

The study was published in September's American Journal of Infection Control.

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