Researchers have found that privacy curtains used in hospitals to separate patient rooms are oftentimes heavily contaminated with drug-resistant super bugs like MRSA. Even more concerning is the fact that the curtains often hang for long periods of time and are very challenging to properly disinfect. This means that the bugs could be spreading from patient to patient, according to the findings of Dr. Michael Ohl from the University of Iowa. Dr. Ohl’s research was presented at the 51st Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy.
To perform the study, Dr. Ohl and his team took 180 swab cultures from 43 hospital privacy curtains 2 times per week for 3 weeks. The curtains were located in medical and surgical intensive care units, and on a medical ward in the University of Iowa Hospitals. Staphylococcus aureus bacteria, ethicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA), and the drug resistant gut bacteria Enterococci were found to be present on the curtains.
Harmful bacteria has also been found on the uniforms of doctors and nurses, similarly drug resistant and dangerous to already ill patients. The studies show that hospitals may not be the safest place for those with compromised immune systems, and also highlights the necessity of a powerful immune system to combat viruses and bacteria that pharmaceuticals cannot.
Dr. Ohl says that doctors often touch the curtains before touching the patient, and that doctors should begin washing their hands after coming into contact with hospital curtains to prevent infection of the patient.