Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Germs Coat Hospital Badges, Says Study

Germs Coat Hospital Badges, Says Study

Helen Carter, ABC Science Online

Identification Badges and Badge Holders
March 19, 2007 — Healthcare workers' lanyards and name badges can harbor pathogens including antibiotic resistant 'superbugs', an Australian hospital study has shown for the first time.

Melbourne researchers showed the popular bootlace-like necklaces that clip to identification cards carry more disease-causing bacteria than standard clip-on badges, and are more likely to be contaminated with antibiotic resistant microbes.

The researchers say hospital pathogens could be transmitted from the hands or clothes of healthcare workers. And infection experts suggest cleaning lanyards and badges in light of these preliminary findings.

The researchers, from Monash Medical Center’s infection control unit, will present their findings at the Australasian Society for Infectious Diseases annual scientific meeting in Hobart.

They collected samples from the surface of lanyards plus the surface, edge and connections of badges worn by 53 nurses and 18 doctors. They isolated 18 pathogens from badges and 27 from lanyards.

The material that lanyards are made from probably made it easier for the researchers to isolate pathogens. But more research is needed to confirm this, they said. Levels of bacteria or bacterial load, were also higher on lanyards.

Of the microbes isolated overall, seven were the 'superbug' methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA); 29 were methicillin sensitive S. aureus (MSSA); four were enterococci and five were aerobic gram-negative bacilli.

"These are common organisms that can cause a range of community and hospital infections," investigators said. "This is a preliminary study and the potential of these organisms to cause disease is unknown from our data.

"But hand washing is very important and we could surmise that cleaning these items would also be important."

Australasian Society for Infectious Diseases president and conference co-convener Professor Lindsay Grayson said pathogens might have come from staff clothing or linen.

"It's very unlikely these [lanyards and badges] would transmit bugs to people. Theoretically there is the potential for transmission but in practical terms these bug numbers are relatively low," he said.

"But it's interesting and reinforces that, just as you wouldn't wear a shirt for weeks without washing it, lanyards and badges should be washed or changed as they can harbor some contamination."

Grayson said MRSA is of most concern as it is resistant to some antibiotics and can cause serious infections.  MSSA, which is more common, is found on everyone's skin but could lead to infections, for example after a cut.  
Previous studies have shown similar contamination on doctors' ties, stethoscopes and mobile phones.


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