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Doctors' name tags fingered as source of deadly hospital superbug bacteria

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  • Doctors' name tags fingered as source of deadly hospital superbug bacteria

    Doctors' name tags fingered as source of deadly hospital superbug bacteria

    Deadly superbug bacteria are being carried on doctors' name tags and straps slung around their necks, potentially infecting sick and vulnerable patients.

    Australian research has revealed for the first time that ID badges and their holders, known as lanyards, can harbour dangerous antibiotic-resistant bugs that increasingly wreak havoc in hospitals across the Tasman.

    New Zealand specialist, Auckland Hospital's clinical head of microbiology Dr Sally Roberts, said doctors here wore name badges in a similar fashion - and it was likely many of their lanyards could also be contaminated with germs.

    "It's the same as pens, computer keyboards, men wearing ties, women wearing false fingernails and rings - there are many different pieces of adornment that we wear that are potentially colonised with germs," said Dr Roberts.

    "Whether there's an actual link between them being colonised and spreading it to patients is unclear."

    The best known superbug, called MRSA or methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus, was much more prevalent in Australian hospitals than in New Zealand hospitals, said Dr Roberts.

    MRSA infects 2000 Australian hospital patients each year, killing 35 per cent of them.

    Previous studies have found the bug present on doctors' coats, stethoscopes and pens, and now Melbourne researchers have recorded high rates on name tags and lanyards.

    An analysis of 71 workers at Monash Medical Centre showed 27 lanyards and 18 badges carried pathogenic bacteria, according to research published in the Medical Journal of Australia.

    "Lanyards and identity badges are worn by both male and female clinical staff for long periods of time without cleaning," said co-author Dr Rhonda Stuart, an infectious diseases physician at the centre.

    "Their position at waist level and their pendulous nature increase the risk that they will become contaminated."

    The researchers called for tags to be regularly disinfected and disposable lanyards to be used to minimise risk.

    Dr Roberts said cleaning the identification tags more often "wouldn't hurt" but the main focus needed to be on hand hygiene, the topic of a dedicated Auckland District Health Board policy.

    "It doesn't surprise me that a name badge and lanyard has got germs on it but hands will remain the most important source," said Dr Roberts.

    Canberra-based infectious diseases expert Professor Peter Collignon said while it was helpful to know where MRSA was found, the main focus should be on stopping MRSA being spread via the hands.

    He also advocated better screening policies to identify which patients may be carrying MRSA; greater use of gowns and gloves for health care workers; more single rooms in wards; and reduced overcrowding in emergency departments.
    Last edited by Gert van der Hoek; January 7th, 2008, 08:41 AM. Reason: deleting advertisement