Germy Stethoscopes in the ICU – and a Cleaning Solution

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Your doctor’s stethoscope could be covered with potentially harmful bacteria — including some, like Staphylococcus aureus, that can cause serious healthcare-associated infections — according to a study published in Infection Control & Hospital Epidemiology, the journal of the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America.

Researchers used DNA testing to analyze bacteria on stethoscopes used in an ICU (intensive care unit). They tested 20 traditional reusable stethoscopes carried by physicians, nurses, and respiratory therapists; 20 single-use disposable stethoscopes from patient rooms; and 10 unused disposable stethoscopes (the controls). All 40 of the stethoscopes in use were contaminated with diverse bacteria, including Staphylococcus, Pseudomonas, and Acinetobacter.

Next, the researchers tested the impact of cleaning with a hydrogen peroxide wipe for one minute (the standard cleaning method) by sampling for bacteria before and after cleaning 10 stethoscopes used by providers. Another 20 stethoscopes were tested before and after cleaning using the providers’ usual methods, which included alcohol swabs, hydrogen peroxide wipes, or bleach wipes used for varying amounts of time. The researchers found that the standard cleaning method eliminated enough bacteria on half of the stethoscopes to get them to clean levels, while the provider-preferred methods worked only 10 percent of the time.

Sourced from: Infection Control & Hospital Epidemiology