Beware the white coat

While the doctor’s white coat may symbolize the profession of medicine, it may also be harboring bacteria and pathogens, studies have found.

In an April 29, 2019 New York Times article, Austin Frakt, adjunct associate professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, described research that found harmful bacteria on doctors’ white coats, on their ties, and on stethoscopes, phones, and tablets that they use.

For instance, a systematic review found that as many as 16% of white coats tested positive for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), and up to 42% for the bacterial class Gram-negative rods. Both types of bacteria can cause serious health problems, such as skin and bloodstream infections, sepsis, and pneumonia. Another study, of orthopedic surgeons, found a 45% match between the types of bacteria found on their ties and in the wounds of patients they’d treated.

The article said that the situation could improve if doctors washed their white coats more often, wore short-sleeved coats, and kept their hands clean with soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

Read the New York Times article: Why Your Doctor’s White Coat Can Be a Threat to Your Health