Fomites are inanimate objects that when contaminated with infectious agents can transfer disease to a new host. Normally, when we think of a fomite, we usually conjure obvious ones…a scalpel,  a phone, a pencil. But sometimes it is the most obvious objects that are at fault, but still overlooked. For example,   a small study published in 2009 indicated that not only were 15% of all stethoscopes tested contaminated with MRSA, but also that the MRSA on the stethoscopes had survived there for upwards of 60 days!

Also, most hospitals do not allow artifical fingernails or nail enhancement on health care workers because the false nails (fomites) consistently have higher bacterial loads than natural nails. Also, there have been a number of studies (example) where doctor’s neckties were found to be commonly contaminated with bacteria. Not all that shocking when you think about  how often men wash their ties?

But most recently, a new  study published in the American Journal of Infection Control, 60-65% of scrubs and lab coats of health care workers tested in the report were contaminated with potentially dangerous bacteria.  The pockets, sleeves, and abdominal areas were tested. Additionally, 21 of nurse’s samples and 6 from the doctor’s samples taken were drug resistant.  Eight of the samples were identified as MRSA (methicillin resistant Staph aureus ).

This is not exactly news, as there are several previous articles detailing how  bacteria can survive on various cloth and plastic surfaces, as well as on lab coats in general.

Hospitals  and doctors are struggling to get it right, though. Just announced in 2010, the  DocFroc:

lab coats and scrubs that are embedded with Tri-Active, an FDA approved silver-based antimicrobial compound that can kill resistant micro-organisms such as MRSA, ECOLI and Salmonella.

It appears that the most important factor in prevention of disease is to simply better identify what has been transferring disease in the first place.

 

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