Here's a post about a paper on the possible transmission of bacteria on doctors' clothing that drew over 1000 comments on reddit in 24 hours.
It linked to a blog by an infectious disease/hospital epidemiologist physician. He discussed a small study which showed that bacteria could be transmitted by neckties.
The study looked at four different combinations of dress—long sleeves with and without ties and short sleeves with and without ties worn by a single physician who rounded on five mannequins simulating patients.
From the Methods section of the paper. "Micrococcus luteus (ATCC) was suspended in sterile saline and adjusted turbidometrically to a concentration of ~1.5X10 8th colony-forming units (cfu)/mL .A Dacron swab was dipped into the bacterial suspension and was rubbed over the terminal 6 cm [about 2.4 inches] of the tie for those tests involving the tie and the corresponding location on the front of the shirt for tests involving no tie. The terminal circumferential 2 cm of the cuffed portion of long and short sleeve shirts were inoculated in a similar manner."
The study found that wearing an unsecured (I guess meaning no clasp) tie was significantly associated with elevated level of contamination of the mannequins. The degree of mannequin contamination was not significantly different whether long or short sleeves were worn.
The blogger concluded that everyone should wear short sleeves and no ties.
But wait a second—6 cm of tie covered with bacteria? How many people are getting that much contamination on their ties? If you are, then you need to reassess your approach to not only infected patients, but maybe activities of daily living in general.
In a recent editorial in the BMJ, Stephanie J. Dancer, a consultant microbiologist in England, wrote that there is no evidence to support the "bare below the elbows" rule [which has been in effect in the UK for several years], and it may be having some unforeseen consequences.
From her piece: "It could be argued that ditching the white coat and tie for hygiene purposes has had the converse effect, in that the informal attire now gracing our wards has encouraged a less robust view of infection control." She based this on the fact that since the bare below the elbows rule, junior doctors have adopted "scruffy" [her word] attire and slovenly personal hygiene.
She went on to say, "The dress code for UK doctors was imposed more as a political gesture than as an evidence based strategy likely to reduce infections acquired in hospitals."
A surgeon from the UK designed what he thought was the perfect uniform for doctors and published a description of it in the BMJ in 2012. Here is how it looked.
He said the "S" stands for "Surgeon." It was not accepted, probably because of the cape.
Maybe bare below the elbows doesn't go far enough.
I think all hospital personnel should dress like this.
Notice he has no stethoscope, no ID card, no cell phone or pager—they can harbor bacteria!