MRSA… VRE… C-Diff.
No, I haven’t gone acronym-crazy. These are just three of the so-called “superbugs” that cause upwards of 100,000 deaths in the United States each year.
And that shocking statistic is in play because not even the strongest antibiotics can kill them.
Even more shocking… if you thought hospitals and the staff there were safe from these bugs, think again. They’re actually thriving there. Or more specifically, in your doctor’s clothes.
The University of Arizona tested hospitals scrubs at the end of work shifts. The study found that 92% of them contained superbugs and bacteria. In fact, the chair of the Committee to Reduce Infection Death told The Wall Street Journal that scrubs are a “germy, deadly mess.”
Better Think Twice About Hugging Your Doctor
“Hey, Doc… nice tie. Shame it’s a cesspool of bacteria.”
A 2004 study conducted at New York Hospital Medical Center of Queen’s (NYHMCQ), found that about half the doctors’ neckties tested were teaming with pathogens. And one in three ties contained bacteria tied to MRSA.
What was NYHMCQ’s response? One infection control expert said that threat from ties “is minor compared with that of hands. If we could just get people to consistently wash their hands between patients, we would cut down on transmission of infection dramatically.”
Sounds simple, right?
Sadly, it’s not enough. A recent Mayo Clinic study found that common precautions in ICUs (i.e. washing hands and wearing gloves) had zero effect on the transmission of resistant bacteria. Not to mention, MRSA can cling to a doctor’s clothing without any physical contact at all.
That’s why the British Medical Association gave neckties the axe in 2006. But in 2007, the American Medical Association was “seeking solid scientific evidence” that ties can be harmful before deciding on the issue. Seriously.
But don’t think you’re safe if your doctor doesn’t wear a tie. As I mentioned, scrubs, the pajamas that somehow qualify as work uniforms, are even worse.
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Scrub Scum: 14.7 Million Hospital Employees Carrying MRSA Every Day
Given the proliferation of bacteria and bugs that reside on hospital clothing, it’s exactly why scrubs are supposed to be cleaned inside hospitals – to keep dangerous pathogens away from the general public.
But how many times have you seen hospitals workers in scrubs while you’re out to lunch? I see at least one every time I go to Starbucks (Nasdaq: SBUX). So it’s no shock that more people are contracting MRSA outside the hospital now.
And considering that 16 million healthcare professionals walk around in scrubs every day, the potential for a bug breakout is clear.
Luckily, scientists in Ireland may have found the solution…
The Self-Disinfecting Fabric
Researchers at the University of Limerick announced last month that they’ve discovered a way to make special hospital clothing that can actually kill MRSA and other superbugs.
In short, they infuse a nanoparticle (one thousand times smaller than the human hair) into the fabric. And once the photoactive material hits light, the particles begin fighting bacteria on the clothing.
Cool, huh? It’s like getting a constant dose of Lysol, without the overpowering scent.
And while others are attempting similar research, the ability to embed nanoparticles into the textile itself puts this group way ahead of the pack. As Project Manager, John Mulcahy says, “It’s something that hasn’t been done before.”
Besides the obvious life-saving benefits that this technology provides, the market potential is huge. The medical textiles industry in the United States and Europe checks in at over $7 billion. And researchers value their potential share of the hospital uniforms segment at $634 million a year.
Like Mulcahy says, “Our technology will be used to produce practical, economical and effective products for this huge potential market.”
And once this technology goes mainstream, doctors can keep their germ-infested ties, too.