Are You a Long-Sleeve or Short-Sleeve Kinda Bacteria?

Bacterial contaminations are the same on short-sleeve and long-sleeve shirts of physicians' work clothes

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) New research findings indicate that long-sleeved clothing worn by physicians does not increase the risk of transmitting bacterial infections.

Recently, there has been debate as to whether the cuffs of physicians' white coats and other long-sleeved garments carry bacteria that cause infections. In fact, governmental agencies in the UK have issued guidelines that ban physicians from wearing long-sleeved workwear in the hope that it will reduce the number of infections within hospitals.

However, a new study conducted by researchers from the University of Colorado (and no, it wa not funded by the Long-Sleeve Lab Coat lobby) shows there is no difference in contamination of long-sleeved or short-sleeved shirts. Nor is there a difference in contamination of the skin of physicians who wear either type of shirt.

Led by Marisha Burden, M.D., the team of researchers analyzed the levels of contamination on the work clothing of 100 physicians who were randomly assigned to wear either a short-sleeved shirt or their normal long-sleeved white coat. According to Burden, there was no statistical difference between the contamination of either type of workwear. They also found that three hours after putting on recently cleaned uniforms, the clothing already had 50 percent of the bacterial contamination counted after 8 hours of wear.

Dr. Burden concludes that the lack of difference between the contamination of the two shirt types shows that there is no reason to discard long-sleeved white coats nor to implement bans on the use of any long-sleeved clothing.

Americans get approximately 1.7 million healthcare-associated infections per year. These infections cause almost 99,000 deaths annually.

The study is published in the Journal of Hospital Medicine.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
February 10, 2011
Last Updated:
February 14, 2011