Scrubs Harbor Dangerous Microbes in ICU, Study Finds

OCTOBER 26, 2016
Gale Scott
In hospital settings, caregivers’ clothing can harbor dangerous microbes, a study of nurses’ scrubs worn in the intensive care unit has found.

Reporting at IDWeek 2016 in New Orleans, LA, Deverick Anderson, MD, MPH, and colleagues at Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC, and other institutions said his group’s study found the sleeves and pockets of the scrubs were the most likely to be contaminated, likely due to contact with patients’ bed railing.

In a study known as ASCOT, the researchers gave 40 participating nurses new scrubs every day for three consecutive shifts. They retrieved the scrubs and cultured samples taken from the sleeves, midriff, and pockets each day. They also took cultures from 167 patients the nurses cared for. Tests showed that microbes found on the nurses’ scrubs had definitely come from specific patients, based on PFGE testing that showed these microbes were genetically related.

The study tracked methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), Klebsiella pneumoniae and Pseudomonas aeruginosa, which are resistant to many antibiotics.

 A total of 2,185 cultures were obtained from nurse clothing, 455 cultures from patients, and 2,919 cultures from patients’ environments were evaluated. 26 (22%) potential transmission events were observed during the 120 shifts; 22 (18%) were confirmed transmissions: six (5% overall, 27% of events) from patient-to-nurse, six (5% overall, 27% of events) from environment-to-nurse, and 10 (8% overall, 38% of events) from patient-to-environment. Confirmed transmissions of important pathogens were observed, including seven MSSA, five MRSA, three SM, three ABC, two KP, and two PA

The study observed no nurse-to-patient or nurse-to-environment transmission events, but the potential is there they said.

“Important pathogens are regularly transmitted from patients and the environment to health care professionals’ clothing,” they concluded.

Discussing the research yesterday before the study was released, ID Week officials said the study shows more disposable gowns, better room cleaning, and new types of scrubs that are microbe-resistant are needed.

Hospital acquired infections, particularly of drug-resistant organisms are a major problem for patients, leading many quality-control organizations to score hospitals on how well they prevent them. 

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