BACKGROUND:

As a cost-saving measure, an increasing number of hospitals allow personnel to launder their uniforms, lab coats, and operating room scrubs at home. With rising nosocomial infection rates and increasing levels of multidrug-resistant bacteria in hospital settings, uniform contamination may be an environmental factor in the spread of infection.

METHODS:

We quantified the number and identity of bacteria found on swatches cut from unwashed operating room, hospital-laundered, home-laundered, new cloth, and new disposable scrubs.

RESULTS:

Of the 29 unwashed hospital operating room scrub swatches analyzed, 23 (79%) were positive for some type of gram-positive cocci, with 3 (10%) of those classified as Staphylococcus aureus, and 20 (69%) were positive for coliform bacteria, 3 of which were Escherichia coli. Home-laundered scrubs had a significantly higher total bacteria count than hospital-laundered scrubs (P = .016). There was no statistical difference in the bacteria counts between hospital-laundered scrubs and unused new and disposable scrubs. In the home-laundered scrubs 44% (18/41) were positive for coliform bacteria, but no isolates were Escherichia coli.

CONCLUSIONS:

Significantly higher bacteria counts were isolated from home-laundered scrubs and unwashed scrubs than from new, hospital-laundered, and disposable scrubs.

Am J Infect Control. 2012 Aug;40(6):539-43. doi: 10.1016/j.ajic.2011.07.015. Epub 2011 Dec 16.