Innocuous looking stethoscope is a germ carrier: Study

Stethoscopes are apparently the most innocuous of all devices that a doctor has. They are non invasive, do not cause any pain; yet help the doctor in diagnosing a problem.

These helpful gadgets however have the potency to cause harm as well, so suggest the findings of a new study.

Didier Pittet, the director of infection control at University of Geneva Hospital in Switzerland and lead author of the study said that stethoscopes are an extension of the doctor””s hands. Therefore they are the carriers of bacteria and can cause patient-to-patient bacterial transmission.

Data available with the Center for Disease Control (CDC) suggests that 5 percent of the patients tend to contract an infection after they receive medical care. Stethoscopes may well be the culprit.

Stethoscope Research Methodology
For the purpose of the study, the researchers observed three physicians. Each physician examined 83 patients. After the physician examined the patient, the investigators noted the amount of bacteria on the physician””s hands, on the diaphragm of the stethoscope and on the tube of the stethoscope.

The analysis revealed that of the 83 examinations, there were no bacteria on the stethoscope in 12 cases. However, in the rest of the 71 examinations, the density of bacteria on the stethoscope was higher than on the doctor’s hands.

The findings of the study underscore the need to clean the stethoscope after every examination. All it needs is a simple wipe with alcohol.

“We have no guidelines to clean our stethoscopes, which has as many bacteria on the diaphragm of the stethoscope as we have on our fingertips”, claims Pittet.

Gonzalo Bearman, an epidemiologist at Virginia Commonwealth University, who wasn””t involved in the study said, “One of the major knowledge gap of infection control is the degree to which the inanimate environment actually drives the hospital infection process.”

“We haven’t been able to come up with great studies that say, Well if you do a certain degree of decolonization, you””re going to get an absolute reduction in infections”, claimed Bearman.

The findings of the study have been published Thursday in Mayo Clinic Proceedings.

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