Time to Bag the White Coats?

Courtesy of Flickr user freaksanon (creative commons)

Courtesy of Flickr user freaksanon (creative commons)

From the annual scientific meeting of the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America, San Diego

It might be time for North Americans to follow the British in their 2007 ban on white lab coats in the health care setting, according to findings presented during a poster session today at the at annual meeting of SHEA. Researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center in Richmond used pigskin as an in vitro model to demonstrate that large inoculums of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, (MRSA) vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE), and pan–resistant Acinetobacter (PRA) bacteria could be transferred from the cloth of a white cotton lab coat to pigskin 1 minute, 5 minutes, and 30 minutes after inoculation.

“Previous research has indicated that you could isolate organisms from materials such as hospital curtains, neck ties, and lab coats, but we wanted to find out if you could take the inoculum from the cloth of a lab coat, transfer it to skin, and isolate the inoculum from the skin,” Dawn L. Butler, a second-year medical student who was one of the study investigators, said in an interview. “We did.”

In a related poster presented at the meeting, 90% of 141 VCU physicians surveyed about their white lab coats reported wearing them daily or on most days of the week, yet 62% said that they wait 2 weeks or longer to wash them

Scary.

—Doug Brunk

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1 Comment

Filed under Hospital and Critical Care Medicine, Infectious Diseases

One response to “Time to Bag the White Coats?

  1. White lab coats, which supposedly be washed everyday, aren’t washed because many hospitals don’t even provide such service. Many of our medical practitioners need to bring home their lab coats so that they can be washed, but only after several days. The bacteria have already accumulated, and they’re going to migrate to a home. That’s a real bad situation.

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