Bacteria remains after cleaning stethoscopes — 4 study insights

A study published in Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology analyzed stethoscope bacteria quantities, finding bacteria often remained after disinfection practices.

Researchers used bacterial 16S rRNA gene deep-sequencing to profile bacterial populations in an intensive care unit on practitioner stethoscopes, individual-use patient-room stethoscopes and clean unused individual-use stethoscopes.

Here's what they found:

1. Bacterial contamination levels were highest on practitioner stethoscopes and patient-room stethoscopes. Clean stethoscopes were indistinguishable from control group stethoscopes.

2. Physician and patient-room stethoscopes had almost identical bacterial contaminations.

3. Healthcare-associated infection-related bacteria was common on practitioner stethoscopes.

4. Disinfecting stethoscopes decreased the amount of bacteria, but not to clean stethoscope levels.

"Stethoscopes used in an ICU carry bacterial DNA reflecting complex microbial communities that include nosocomially important taxa. Commonly used cleaning practices reduce contamination but are only partially successful at modifying or eliminating these communities," researchers said.

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