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Antimicrobial Scrubs Can Help Reduce MRSA Risk to Patients

MRSA bacteria (CDC)

Scanning electron micrograph image of MRSA bacteria (Janice Haney Carr, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

A Virginia Commonwealth University research team in Richmond has found that hospital scrubs impregnated with antimicrobial compounds, along with good hand hygiene, can reduce the burden of Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA) on health care workers’ apparel and help decrease the risk of MRSA transmission to patients. Their findings appear online the journal Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology (paid subscription required).

The team led by Gonzalo Bearman, professor of internal medicine at VCU, investigated 32 health care workers who 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. The scrubs used in the study were made by Vestagen Technical Textiles of Orlando, Florida.

The study participants also received identical hand hygiene educational sessions every four weeks, and researchers assessed compliance with hand hygiene practices. Those assessments consisted of once weekly, unannounced, garment and hand cultures of participants at the start and end of each shift. In those tests, the researchers obtained two samples from the garment’s abdominal area and cargo pant pocket, considered two areas of high touch and high bacterial colonization.

Previous findings had shown that hospital textiles can add to the transmission of pathogens through indirect contact via the hands of hospital staff. Antimicrobial textiles, however, can reduce this bioburden — the number of bacteria living on a surface before sterilization in clinical settings.

The findings show that the scrubs did not affect the degree of MRSA on the health care workers’ hands. However, the antimicrobial scrubs were effective in reducing the burden of MRSA on health care worker apparel. “If widespread antimicrobial scrub use were added to existing infection prevention strategies,” says Bearman, “a further decrease in hospital acquired infections may occur by limiting the cross transmission of pathogens via apparel.”

Bearman adds that the actual impact of antimicrobial scrubs on hospital acquired infections needs further study. The paper recommends a prospective trial that follows patients over time is needed to measure the impact of antimicrobial impregnated apparel on MRSA transmission rates.

Read more: U.S. Patent Granted for Anti-Microbial Polymer Technology

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