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The objective of this study was to determine the prevalence of Staphylococcus-contaminated stethoscopes belonging to emergency department (ED) staff and to identify the proportion of these that were Staphylococcus aureus or methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).
We conducted a prospective observational cohort study of bacterial cultures from 100 ED staff members' stethoscopes at three EDs. Study participants were asked to complete a questionnaire.
Fifty-four specimens grew coagulase-negative staphylococci and one grew methicillin-susceptible S. aureus. No MRSA was cultured. Only 8% of participants, all of whom were nurses, reported cleaning their stethoscope before or after each patient assessment. Alcohol-based wipes were most commonly used to clean stethoscopes. A lack of time, being too busy, and forgetfulness were the most frequently reported reasons for not cleaning the stethoscope in the ED.
This study indicates that although stethoscope contamination rates in these EDs are high, the prevalence of S. aureus or MRSA on stethoscopes is low.