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Two thirds of nurse uniforms test positive for 'harmful' bacteria


Hospital nurses’ uniforms are a breeding ground for potentially dangerous bacteria, study authors have warned.

Nearly two thirds of samples taken from the uniforms of registered nurses tested positive for potentially harmful infections including MRSA.

Israeli researchers at a 550-bed hospital in Jerusalem collected samples from three areas on the uniforms of 75 nurses and 60 doctors, who also completed questionnaires.

More than half, 58%, claimed to change their uniform every day and 77% described the cleanliness of their garment as fair to excellent.

The research team collected 238 samples by pressing culture plates on the pockets, sleeves and the front of uniforms.

The study, published in the September issue of the American Journal of Infection Control, found 65% tested positive for potentially disease-causing bacteria with 21 samples containing drug resistant strains like MRSA.

Clothes that were changed every other day were more seriously contaminated with antibiotic-resistant bacteria than those changed every day, researchers found.

They said: “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.”


Reference: Nursing and physician attire as possible source of nosocomial infections


Readers' comments (9)

  • Wow, clothes that are worn for two days or more in a row are more seriously contaminated with antibiotic-resistant bacteria than those changed every day, researchers found. Amazing! How is this news NT? This is common sense

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  • it doesn't say whether these were hospital laundered or home washed uniforms?

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  • There is no mention of wearing disposable aprons and regular changing of these. They cover the areas swabbed (pockets and front of uniform) and most nurses uniforms don't have sleeves so must refer to doctors coats.

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  • From the abstract- "Cultures were obtained from uniforms of nurses and physicians by pressing standard blood agar plates at the abdominal zone, sleeve ends, and pockets."

    It sounds as if disposable aprons may not have been worn if the abdominal area was contaminated. Do we presume these areas are contaminated from patients, or that staff are carriers, or both? It would be better if we had more information. Being at home, at the moment, I do not have access to the full article. Has anyone read the full text to enlighten us with more details?

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  • I’m not too sure what this piece is supposed to prove; I think if you’d done the same test on visitors, patients even maintenance staff - anyone that’s been in a clinical area - you would have found micro-organisms on their clothes. If you did the same test with clothes you’d been wearing all day at home, you’d find similar organisms too.

    Wearing disposable aprons, changing your uniform each day, effective hand-hygiene etc, will help to prevent spreading bugs about, but you’ll never be able to prevent it totally.

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  • Anonymous | 14-Sep-2011 8:57 am I was going to say the exact same thing! Why not do this test on visitors and non clinical staff?

    Or is this another cynical lead up to another nurse bashing crusade by the media?

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  • Paula Neilson

    Totally agree with Anonymous | 14-Sep-2011 8:57 am. Short of donning all-in-one SOCO/HAZMAT suits and making patients feel like their in the film "Outbreak", you can only help do your part to prevent spreading these organisms.
    I launder my uniform at high temperatures and iron it also, but with no dedicated changing/locker room in my work area, I am required to wear my uniform to and from work covered up by a full length jacket. Short of the hospital providing personalised laundering or adequate locker-room facilities, in these cash-strapped times, I don't see this changing anytime soon.
    As nurses, I would like to think we all do our best not only for our patients to prevent spread of infection, but also to prevent bringing anything nasty back to our loved ones.

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  • I work full time and have two uniforms which are remotely wearable - the rest, being the cheapest material ever, have been washed into oblivion.

    One day my employer might cough up the money to buy more> until then looks like I will have to live with the bacteria thing.

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  • This research was not carried out in the UK, therefore does not apply to UK nurse/doctors.

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