Is It Time to Abandon the Lab Coat in the Fight Against Germs?

From the NY Times:

The Lab Coat Is on the Hook in the Fight Against Germs

48% of neckties worn by a sampling of New York City doctors carried at least one species of infectious microbe. The British NHS has adopted a “bare below the elbow” hospital dress policy: no long fingernails, ties, jewelry, lab coat.

A comment from Twitter:

rebel85 No matter what we wear, it will have germs, including skin. Granted we need to be cautious. Has anyone studied stethoscopes???

Actually, yes. There are around 30-50 studies indexed by PubMed.

One of the more recent ones
focused on ICU patients. All 32 non-medical staff were supposed to clean their stethoscopes at least every day; however only three out of the 12 medical staff cleaned this often. Out of 24 intensive care unit bedside stethoscopes tested, two diaphragms and five earpieces were colonised with pathogenic bacteria. MRSA cultured from one earpiece persisted after cleaning. Three out of the 22 personal stethoscope diaphragms and five earpieces were colonised with pathogens. After cleaning, two diaphragms and two earpieces were still colonised.

Dedicated stethoscopes are also a source of nosocomial pathogens: 94% of ear tips were contaminated, MRSA was found in 1.3%

New test (KeyPath) determines whether Staph. aureus infections are methicillin resistant (MRSA) within 5 hours
Image source:, public domain.

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