Alcohol Hand Rub Significantly Reduces Overall Bacterial Bioburden on Stethoscopes in a Real-World Clinical Setting

Conference Paper

Background: Stethoscopes are a known vector for microbial transmission; however, common strategies used to clean stethoscopes pose certain barriers that prevent routine cleaning after every use. We aimed to determine whether using readily available alcohol-based hand rub (ABHR) would effectively reduce bacterial bioburden on stethoscopes in a real-world setting. Methods: We performed a randomized study on inpatient wards of an academic medical center to assess the impact of using ABHR (AlcareExtra; ethyl alcohol, 80%) on the bacterial bioburden of stethoscopes. Stethoscopes were obtained from healthcare providers after routine use during an inpatient examination and were randomized to control (no intervention) or ABHR disinfection (2 pumps applied to tubing and bell or diaphragm by study personnel, then allowed to dry). Cultures of the tubing and bell or diaphragm were obtained with premoistened cellulose sponges. Sponges were combined with 1% Tween20-PBS and mixed in the Seward Stomacher. The homogenate was centrifuged and all but ~5 mL of the supernatant was discarded. Samples were plated on sheep’s blood agar and selective media for clinically important pathogens (CIPs) including S. aureus, Enterococcus spp, and gram-negative bacteria (GNB). CFU count was determined by counting the number of colonies on each plate and using dilution calculations to calculate the CFU of the original ~5 mL homogenate. Results: In total, 80 stethoscopes (40 disinfection, 40 control) were sampled from 46 physicians (MDs) and MD students (57.5%), 13 advanced practice providers (16.3%), and 21 nurses (RNs) and RN students (26.3%). The median CFU count was ~30-fold lower in the disinfection arm compared to control (106 [IQR, 50–381] vs 3,320 [986–4,834]; P < .0001). The effect was consistent across provider type, frequency of recent usual stethoscope cleaning, age, and status of pet ownership (Fig. 1). Overall, 26 of 80 (33%) of stethoscopes harbored CIP. The presence of CIP was lower but not significantly different for stethoscopes that underwent disinfection versus controls: S. aureus (25% vs 32.5%), Enterococcus (2.5% vs 10%), and GNB (2.5% vs 5%). Conclusions: Stethoscopes may serve as vectors for clean hands to become recontaminated immediately prior to performing patient care activities. Using ABHR to clean stethoscopes after every use is a practical and effective strategy to reduce overall bacterial contamination that can be easily incorporated into clinical workflow. Larger studies are needed to determine the efficacy of ABHR at removing CIP from stethoscopes as stethoscopes in both arms were frequently contaminated with CIP. Prior cleaning of stethoscopes on the study day did not seem to impact contamination rates, suggesting the impact of alcohol foam disinfection is short-lived and may need to be repeated frequently (ie, after each use).Funding: NoneDisclosures: NoneDisclosures: NoneFunding: None

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Johnson, A; Warren, B; Anderson, DJ; Johnson, M; Gamez, I; Smith, B

Published Date

  • October 2020

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 41 / S1

Start / End Page

  • s114 - s115

Published By

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1559-6834

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0899-823X

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1017/ice.2020.620