According to a new study, stethoscopes carry more bacteria, such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), than a physician's hands. These may be helping to spread dangerous bugs around GP surgeries and hospital wards.
Researchers from the World Health Organisation Collaborating Centre on Patient Safety at University of Geneva Hospitals in Switzerland warn that stethoscopes are used repeatedly over the course of a day, come directly into contact with patients' skin, and may harbour several thousands of bacteria.
It is a potentially significant vector of transmission. The researchers suggest that from infection control and patient safety perspectives, the stethoscope should be regarded as an extension of the physician's hands and be disinfected after every patient contact.
The study, published in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings, is the first to make a direct comparison of bacterial contamination of hands and stethoscopes.
(Source: BBC News)
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