FRIDAY, March 27 (HealthDay News) -- One in three stethoscopes
used by U.S. emergency medical service providers
is contaminated with methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus
aureus (MRSA) bacteria, a new study suggests.
Researchers at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of
New Jersey swabbed 50 stethoscopes used by independent emergency
medical service (EMS) providers, including nurses, paramedics
and EMTs, who visited the emergency department of a New Jersey
hospital over a 24-hour period.
"Of the 50 stethoscopes, 16 had MRSA colonization, and the
same number [of EMS providers] couldn't remember the last
time their stethoscopes were cleaned," study author Dr. Mark
Merlin, an assistant professor of emergency medicine and
pediatrics at the UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School,
said in a university news release.
Merlin was surprised at the high rate of MRSA contamination.
"I thought maybe 1 percent of stethoscopes would be infected," said
Merlin, who noted that the median length of time between cleanings
was one to seven days.
"The longer period of time between cleanings, the more likely
it is you have this bacteria," he said.
Merlin added there's a simple solution for this potentially
serious problem: "Provide isopropyl alcohol wipes at hospital emergency room entrances
so EMS professionals can clean their stethoscopes regularly."
MRSA infections have been on the rise in recent decades,
and many people have put the blame on hospitals. But this
study shows that MRSA infections can be acquired before patients
arrive at hospital, Merlin said.
The study was published in current issue of Prehospital