AMA Weighs Infection Hazard Posed by Medical Attire

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 99,000 people die every year from infections acquired while in hospitals. "The goal in our profession is to help cure you not introduce you to another deadly infection," says Dr. Charles Kinder, director of the heart rhythm program at Heart Care Centers of Illinois.

One culprit in the accidental spread of disease is the common lab coat and scrubs worn by medical personnel. According to recent studies conducted by the University of Maryland and Virginia Commonwealth University, lab coat sleeves can be an unwitting carrier of infection, opening the door to accidental exposure for patients to methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) when in contact with hospital staff and doctors.

For this reason, the American Medical Association (AMA) recently announced plans to begin formal research on "textile transmission of infections" at their annual conference of medical professionals and physicians in Chicago. A Reference Committee proposal took special note to single out the "physician's white lab coat as a primary concern associated with textile transmission of infections."

"Lab coats or scrubs can be the source of some serious bacterial hazards like MRSA," says Charles P. Gerba, PhD, a professor of environmental microbiology in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Arizona. "When doctors or nurses lean over the beds of patients who are carrying organisms, their clothing can become contaminated. Hours later that bacteria can still be alive and passed on through incidental contact with other patients."

Hospitals continue to make process and procedural improvements in an effort to reduce the number of accidents resulting from bacterial cross-contamination from dirty catheters and other equipment, but clothing has been largely ignored -- until now.

Kinder decided it was time to address the lab coat and scrubs hazard directly.  He recently launched his own company called DocFroc. A joint venture with Blue Devil Textile, Kinder has designed lab coats and scrubs that are embedded with Tri-Active, an FDA approved silver-based antimicrobial compound that can kill resistant micro-organisms such as MRSA, E. coli and Salmonella.

"There isn't a doctor or hospital administrator out there who isn't interested in reducing medical accidents. Our job is to keep patients safe when they're in our care. What's important here is another step, another practical way to control infection that can be easily adopted by hospitals and medical staff everywhere," says Kinder.

The AMA Board of Trustees report on Hospital Dress Codes is encouraging medical professionals to practice antimicrobial stewardship in an effort to reduce healthcare-acquired infections. "I can't think of a better way to fulfill this obligation than to wear clothing that effectively addresses the hazard by eliminating micro-organisms," stated Kinder. Kinder is currently selling his DocFroc coats online at www.docfroc.com, or by calling 1-708-710-9138.  His coats also feature some practical design improvements including pager pockets and stethoscope holders as well as an updated design for male and female healthcare providers.

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