Short sleeves don't cut bacteria build up amongst doctors

11 February 2011

New research has shown that forcing doctors to wear short-sleeved coats does not reduce bacteria build up and improve hygiene.

The study, conducted at the University of Colorado, flies in the face of a short-sleeve policy introduced by the previous Labour government.

Dr Marisha Burden, lead researcher behind the US study, said: "We were surprised to find no statistical difference in contamination between the short- and long-sleeved workwear.

"We also found bacterial contamination of newly laundered uniforms occurs within hours of putting them on."

The research, published in the Journal of Hospital Medicine, showed that within three hours of putting on a uniform, 50 per cent of the bacteria discovered at eight hours was already present.

"By the end of an eight-hour work day, we found no data supporting the contention that long sleeved white coats were more heavily contaminated than short sleeved uniforms," Dr Burden concluded.

In particular, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) levels were found to be similar in long- and short-sleeved garments.

1 Burden, Dr Marisha et al. "Newly cleaned physician uniforms and infrequently washed white coats have similar rates of bacterial contamination after an 8-hour workday: A randomized controlled trial". Journal of Hospital Medicine. Thursday, February 10th 2011.

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