Bacterial contamination of healthcare workers' uniforms: A randomized controlled trial of antimicrobial scrubs

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BACKGROUNDHealthcare workers' (HCWs) uniforms become contaminated with bacteria during normal use, and this may contribute to hospital-acquired infections. Antimicrobial uniforms are currently marketed as a means of reducing this contamination.OBJECTIVETo compare the extent of bacterial contamination of uniforms and skin when HCWs wear 1 of 2 antimicrobial scrubs or standard scrubs.DESIGNProspective, randomized, controlled trial.SETTINGUniversity-affiliated, public safety net hospitalPARTICIPANTSHospitalist physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, housestaff, and nurses (total N = 105) working on internal medicine units.INTERVENTIONSubjects were randomized to wear standard scrubs or 1 of 2 antimicrobial scrubs.MEASUREMENTSBacterial colony counts in cultures taken from the HCWs' scrubs and wrists after an 8-hour workday.RESULTSThe median (interquartile range) total colony counts was 99 (66–182) for standard scrubs, 137 (84–289) for antimicrobial scrub type A, and 138 (62–274) for antimicrobial scrub type B (P = 0.36). Colony counts from participants' wrists were 16 (5–40) when they wore standard scrubs and 23 (4–42) and 15 (6–54) when they wore antimicrobial scrubs A and B, respectively (P = 0.92). Resistant organisms were cultured from 3 HCWs (4.3%) randomized to antimicrobial scrubs and none randomized to standard scrubs (P = 0.55). Six participants (5.7%) reported side effects to wearing scrubs, all of whom wore antimicrobial scrubs (P = 0.18).CONCLUSIONSWe found no evidence that either antimicrobial scrub product decreased bacterial contamination of HCWs' uniforms or skin after an 8-hour workday. Journal of Hospital Medicine 2013;8:380–385. © 2013 Society of Hospital Medicine

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