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Study finds docs' long-sleeved coats don't spread more bugs than bare arms

Recently, there has been concern that doctors' workplace wardrobes could be a factor in the spread of infections among patients. Such fears resulted in hospitals in the U.K. instituting a new dress code and banning the iconic white doctor's coat in 2007. The American Medical Association also considered a similar policy.

But findings (subscription required) published today in the Journal of Hospital Medicine show such precautions may be ineffective, because health-care providers pick up a similar amount of bacteria whether they're wearing short or long sleeves. For their study, researchers randomly assigned 100 physicians to start the day of the trial in either a freshly washed, short-sleeved uniform or their usual long-sleeved white coat. As The Health Blog reports:

At eight hours into the work day, researchers took samples from breast pocket, sleeve cuff and skin of the wrist, then let them incubate. They found “no significant differences” between the bacterial colony counts from the coats and the uniforms - not on the sleeves (whether short or long) or pockets.

There was also no difference between the groups in the number of people carrying around the MRSA bacteria on their clothes or wrists.

It will be interesting to see if such evidence sparks a revival of the long-sleeved white doctors coat and influence U.K. hospitals' strict dress code.

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