Antimicrobial scrubs help reduce bacterial burden

The use of antimicrobial impregnated scrubs combined with good hand hygiene is effective in reducing the burden of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) on healthcare workers' apparel and may potentially play a role in decreasing the risk of MRSA transmission to patients, according to a new study from Virginia Commonwealth University researchers (Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology, January 6, 2012).

Previous findings have shown that hospital textiles may contribute to the transmission of pathogens through indirect contact via the hands of hospital staff, and that antimicrobial textiles may reduce the number of bacteria living on a surface before sterilization in clinical settings.

In the new study, 32 healthcare workers wore four pairs of identically appearing control scrubs and study scrubs impregnated with an antimicrobial, or germ-killing, compound over the course of four months, washing them regularly. Participants also received identical hand hygiene educational sessions every four weeks, and researchers assessed compliance with hand hygiene practices.

The researchers conducted weekly, unannounced garment and hand cultures of participants at the start and end of each shift in which they obtained two samples from the garment's abdominal area and cargo pant pocket -- two areas of high touch and high bacterial colonization.

Although the scrubs did not impact the degree of MRSA on the healthcare workers' hands, the antimicrobial scrubs were effective in reducing the burden of MRSA on healthcare worker apparel, the study authors concluded.

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