Third of EMS Stethoscopes Carry MRSA Virus
Doctor urges first responders to clean equipment regularly with alcohol wipes
-- Robert Preidt
Doctor urges first-responders to clean equipment regularly with alcohol wipes.
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 Emergency Care.
The U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases has more about MRSA.
SOURCE: University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, news release, March 25, 2009
Copyright © 2009 ScoutNews, LLC. All rights reserved.
EMS Providers Nationwide Urged to Clean Stethoscopes More Frequently to Prevent Transmission of MRSA
UMDNJ Study Shows One in Three Stethoscopes Used by EMS Providers is Infected
NEW BRUNSWICK – Emergency medical services providers should clean their stethoscopes more frequently to prevent transmission of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), urges Dr. Mark Merlin, chair of the Mobile Intensive Care Unit Advisory Committee for the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services.
One in three stethoscopes from a sampling of independent emergency medical services (EMS) providers from New Jersey tested positive for MRSA in a recent UMDNJ study led by Merlin, who is an assistant professor of emergency medicine and pediatrics at the UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.
“There’s a simple solution for this potentially serious problem,” Merlin said. “Provide isopropyl alcohol wipes at hospital emergency room entrances so EMS professionals can clean their stethoscopes regularly.”
MRSA infections have been on the rise within the last decade and many blame hospitals, Merlin said. “But it may be acquired before hospitalization,” he added.
In the study, researchers swabbed 50 stethoscopes used by independent emergency medical service providers - including EMTs, nurses, and paramedics – who visited a New Jersey hospital’s emergency department with patients during a 24-hour period. Cultures were incubated for 72 hours and then analyzed by two emergency physicians and one microbiologist from UMDNJ.
“Of the 50 stethoscopes, 16 had MRSA colonization and the same number couldn’t remember the last time their stethoscopes were cleaned,” said Merlin, who also is medical director of Emergency Medical Services (EMS) at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital.
Stethoscopes are known potential transmitters for MRSA. Still, Merlin was surprised by this study’s results. “I thought maybe one percent of stethoscopes would be infected,” he said.
Researchers suspect the length of time between stethoscope cleanings may increase the possibility of transmission. According to the study, the median reported 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,” Merlin said.
Additional study details are available in “Prevalence of Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus on the Stethoscopes of Emergency Medical Services Providers,” an article appearing in the current issue of Prehospital Emergency Care.
The research team is following up this study with two others. In one study, stethoscopes with MRSA are inoculated and researchers will try to determine the best cleaning method - soap and water vs. isopropyl alcohol. The second study examines how long MRSA can survive on the surface of the stethoscope.
Media interested in arranging an interview with Dr. Mark Merlin should contact Zenaida Mendez at (973) 972-7273.
The University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ) is the nation’s largest free-standing public health sciences university with nearly 5,700 students attending the state's three medical schools, its only dental school, a graduate school of biomedical sciences, a school of health related professions, a school of nursing and its only school of public health on five campuses. Annually, there are more than two million patient visits at UMDNJ facilities and faculty practices at campuses in Newark, New Brunswick/Piscataway, Scotch Plains, Camden and Stratford. UMDNJ operates University Hospital, a Level I Trauma Center in Newark, and University Behavioral HealthCare, a statewide mental health and addiction services network.
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