Most Americans have accepted the paradox of hospitals. They are supposed to be an institution of healing; yet due to staff errors and other health risks such as MRSA
, many people leave sicker than they were when they checked in. Now a study published in the American Journal of Infection Control tells us healthcare-associated infection (HAI) is a bigger risk than previously believed.
A research team at the Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Israel, led by Dr. Yonit Wiener-Well, led a study that found more than 60 percent of hospital doctors' and nurses' uniforms were contaminated with potentially dangerous bacteria. The team collected samples from three different sections of the uniforms of 60 doctors and 75 nurses by pressing petri dishes filled with blood agar to the abdominal region, the bottom of sleeves and pockets.
The results were that 50 percent of all the cultures taken, including 65 percent of the nurses' uniforms and 60 percent of the doctors' uniforms, grew pathogens. Twenty-one cultures of the RN uniforms and six cultures of MD uniforms were contaminated with drug resistant bacteria
. Not surprisingly, eight cultures grew methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).
While the researchers point out that the uniforms themselves may not be a source of disease transmission, it paints a vivid picture of the prevalence of antibiotic-resistant strains that are within inches of sick hospital patients.
APIC President Russell Olmsted states, "It is important to put these study results into perspective. 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 World Health Organization (WHO) suggests the risk of HAI is as much as 20 times greater in some developing countries than in developed ones. The study took place in Israel, a developed country, and still the possibility of HAI was higher than would be expected. American hospitals have the same problem. HAIs happen far too frequently. They can be expensive to treat, and in some cases, deadly.
Hopefully the evidence presented in this new study will help bring awareness to potential sources of contamination and how to prevent HAI. Patient safety depends on it.