By Sara G. Miller

Dangerous bacteria, including methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), can spread from sick patients in a hospital to the scrubs of health care workers, a new study finds.

Twice a day, the researchers sampled the nurses’ scrubs, the patients‘ rooms and the patients themselves for bacteria. In total, they took more than 2,100 samples from the nurses’ scrubs (including the sleeves, the pockets and the midriffs of the scrubs), 455 samples from the patients and nearly 3,000 samples from the patients’ rooms (including the supply cart, the bed and the bed rails). Then, they tested these samples for bacteria. By identifying the specific strains of the bacteria, the researchers were able to determine when there had been a transmission of bacteria, from one location to another, within the rooms.

The researchers found 22 instances of bacterial transmission: six of the instances of transmission were from patient to nurse, six were from room to nurse and 10 percent were from patient to room.

Six types of bacteria were transmitted, including MRSA, Klebsiella pneumoniae, bacteria from a group called the Acinetobacter baumaniicomplex and methicillin-susceptible Staphylococcus aureus (MSSA), a bacterium that is similar to MRSA but is treatable with the antibiotic methicillin.

The researchers noted that the pockets and sleeves of the nurses’ scrubs were the parts of the clothing that were the most likely to be contaminated, and the bed rails were the most likely places in the room to be contaminated.

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