ICU Stethoscopes Loaded With Disgusting Bacteria

Stethoscopes bacteria
Photo by Connor Tarter

According to a new report, stethoscopes are bacteria-infested. Worse more, it seems cleaning them doesn’t help the issue.

Many of the bacterium discovered on the stethoscopes was linked to typical infections, such as Staphylococcus.

Researchers sampled 40 stethoscopes in use in an ICU and all of them had a high amount of Staphylococcus on them. Another 24 of them were infested with S. aureus bacteria.

The tests were conducted by Ronald G. Collman, MD, of the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) Perelman School of Medicine in Philadelphia and his research team.

Cleaning of the stethoscopes helped but did not eliminate the instances of bacteria. In fact, the instances of bacteria were higher than the amount considered safe by ICUs.

The study is currently published in the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America.

So you are likely wondering, how did we just figure this out?

Well, here’s why:

Collman and colleagues, according to MedPageToday, say that the previous studies were less sophisticated and harmfully limited. In other words, the prior studies were crumby. And today’s study is a more accurate reading and the beginning of a new and bitter reality that is stethoscope filth. In this case, the researchers swabbed stethoscopes in the ICU and then used molecular sequencing to analyze them.

The testing included “0 single-use disposable stethoscopes straight out of the box (control set), 20 single-use disposable stethoscopes being used in inpatient rooms (patient room stethoscopes), and 20 stethoscopes carried by physicians, nurses, and respiratory therapists (practitioner stethoscopes).” Following this, 10 were examined using a “standardized cleaning method,” or, 60 seconds of hydrogen peroxide wiping. This method imitates physicians and nurses “using the method they usually would use to clean it between patients.” Five of the stethoscopes failed the test.

Staphylococcus represents 7% to 14% of bacteria found on the stethoscopes.

Good to know (not really).

“This study underscores the importance of adhering to rigorous infection control procedures, including fully adhering to CDC-recommended decontamination procedures between patients, or using single-patient-use stethoscopes kept in each patient’s room,” Collman said in a statement.

“Useful future directions would be to use these molecular approaches to identify improved cleaning methods, enhance species-level identification of pathogens, quantify live versus dead bacteria, and define fungal and viral contaminants… [and] shotgun metagenomic sequencing would be useful to analyze drug-resistance genes that might be carried between patients on practitioner stethoscopes,” researchers concluded.


feature photo Photo by Connor Tarter

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