Among doctors and nurses, it is imperative that a strict hand-washing hygiene is followed to prevent the spread of germs, and a new study revealed that this practice should be followed by patients, too.
Scientists examined patients during the early days of their hospital stay as well as the objects that the patients used inside the hospital rooms, such as the nurse call button.
The data they collected proves that patients should also follow a strict hand-washing hygiene. However, the researchers caution that the findings do not mean that patients will immediately get sick with antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
Furthermore, healthcare workers' hands are still the primary mode of microbe transmission to patients.
Superbug Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria Found In Patients' Hands, Nostrils
Researchers from the University of Michigan made more than 700 visits to the rooms of general medicine inpatients at two hospitals.
The patients were enrolled in the study and samples were taken from their bodies as well as on their often touched objects with their permission.
What the team found out was that out of 399 patients they examined, at least 14 percent had superbug antibiotic-resistant bacteria on their hands and nostrils very early in their hospital stay.
Nearly a third of tests on objects commonly touched by patients in their rooms, including the nurse call button, came out positive for these superbug antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
By using genetic fingerprinting techniques, scientists also looked to see if the strains of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) on patients' hands were the same ones as in their rooms. Two matched in nearly all cases, which suggested that the transmission to patients happened.
What's more, another 6 percent of patients who did not have multi-drug resistant organisms on their hands at the beginning of their hospital stay tested positive later in their stay.
About one-fifth of the objects tested in the rooms had similar superbugs on them, too.
"[O]ur findings make an argument for addressing transmission of MDROs in a way that involves patients, too," explained Dr. Lona Mody, a geriatrician who led the research team.
Why The Findings Of The Study Matter
Mody said that it is important that hospital patients don't just stay in their rooms. They must also get up and walk in the halls as part of their recovery.
Since patients must be transported to other areas of the hospital for tests and procedures, they actually pass on bacteria from other patients and staff, and also leave them on surfaces they touch.
If a relatively healthy person has an MDRO on their skin, and their immune system can fight it off, a more vulnerable person can come into contact with this other person and get sick.
"No matter where you are, in a healthcare environment or not, this study is a good reminder to clean your hands often," added Mody. This included before and after preparing food, before eating food, after using a toilet, and before and after caring for someone who is sick.
Mody and her colleagues were also the ones who published a study on how privacy curtains inside hospital rooms carry superbugs. This is why it's important to always wash these curtains and change them regularly.
Meanwhile, details of the new study have been issued in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases and will be presented at a conference in Europe.