A new study looking at how germs are spread at hospitals has identified a surprising potential culprit: nurses' scrubs. Specifically, their pockets and sleeves were the most likely spots to be contaminated, reports WebMD.
Another potential hot spot: the bed railings of patients, according to a post about the research at Eureka Alert. The study followed 40 ICU nurses caring for 167 patients at Duke University Hospital.
Samples were collected from the nurses' uniforms before and after their 12-hour shifts, as well as from the patients and objects in their rooms such as supply carts and beds.
Researchers did not find any instances in which nurses passed along bacteria to patients, but they found that nurses picked them up from patients or the room in multiple instances.
"We know there are bad germs in hospitals, but we're just beginning to understand how they are spread," says lead author Deverick Anderson of Duke University.
Of the 22 transmissions they discovered, six were from patient to nurse, six were from the room to the nurse, and 10 were from the patient to the room, reports the CBC.
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The researchers looked for five strains particularly vexing to hospitals because of their resistance to antibiotics. They say one takeaway is the need for stricter protocols on hand washing and the use of gloves, even if a nurse doesn't actually touch a patient while in the room.
(One weird potential help in the fight against superbugs: the milk of Tasmanian devils.)
This article originally appeared on Newser: Potential Hot Spot for Germs: Nurses' Scrubs