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Harmful Bacteria Can Latch On Hospital Scrubs, Study Finds

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While it is not surprising that bacteria gets incubated and spread in hospitals, a new research revealed that one of the most effective ways by which these are perpetrated is through the nurse's scrubs.

The researchers, which have undertaken the study at the Duke University Hospital, presented their findings at the IDWeek 2016, an annual confab for organizations that focus on infectious diseases. They were able to identify the flow by which pathogens make their way from patients to items around the medical facility and to other patients.

"We know there are bad germs in hospitals, but we're just beginning to understand how they spread," Dr. Deverick Anderson, lead researcher of the study said in an official statement.

The trial population included 167 intensive care unit (ICU) patients who were cared for by 40 nurses, covering 120 12-hour shifts. The sleeves and pockets of the nurses' scrubs were found as one of the most contaminated, facilitating the spread of several types of bacteria that can cause what experts call as hospital-acquired infections (HAIs).

The researchers sampled the nurses' scrubs, patients and the patients' rooms two times daily. Based on an estimated 5,555 samples collected, several instances of bacterial transmission were discovered. Forty-five percent was attributed from patient to room while 54 percent of the transmissions involved the nurse.

These transpire either from patient to nurse or from room to nurse. While the study did not find cases of bacterial transmission from nurse to patients, the conclusion is that it is likely to occur.

When samples from scrubs were cultured, the researchers found that its pockets, sleeves and midriffs are the most heavily contaminated, along with patients' bed railings. This last involving infection by way of hospital beds has also been confirmed in previous studies.

Anderson stated that the process is constituted by what they call as "transmission triangle" wherein pathogens spread from patient to environment to health workers.

The study did not reveal what types and strains of bacteria were found in the transmissions involving nurses and their scrubs. Nonetheless, the study identified six types of bacteria overall. These include methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), Acinetobacter baumannii, and Klebsiella pneumoniae.

What is quite interesting about the study's findings is that bacterial transmission happens even when the facility is cleaned every day. In response to the findings, the researchers recommend several key interventions to avoid HAIs. These include rigid sanitation practices on the part of health workers, particularly those involving hand hygiene as well as the use of disposable gloves and gowns.

"I think sometimes there's the misconception that if, for instance, a nurse is just talking to patients and not actually touching them, that it might be OK to skip protocols that help reduce pathogen transmission, like washing hands or wearing gloves," Anderson said.

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