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To determine the role of nonmedicated soap as a source of Serratia marcescens nosocomial infections (NIs) in hospital units with endemic S marcescens NI and to examine the mechanisms of soap colonization.
University-affiliated tertiary-care hospitals.
A prospective case-control study and an environmental investigation were performed to assess the relationship between S marcescens NIs in hospital units and S marcescens-contaminated soap. Soap-bottle use and handwashing practices were reviewed. Cultures of healthcare workers’ (HCWs) hands were obtained before and after hand washing with soap.
5 of 7 hospital units with S marcescens NIs had soap bottles contaminated with S marcescens, compared to 1 of 14 other units (P =.006). After hand washing with an S marcescens-contaminated soap pump, HCWs' hands were 54 times more likely to be contaminated with S marcescens (P<.001).
Extrinsic contamination of a non-medicated liquid soap by S marcescens resulted in handborne transmission of S marcescens NIs by HCWs in our setting. This finding led to the application of strict guidelines for nonmedicated soap use and to the reinforcement of alcoholic hand disinfection.
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