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Dynamics of Bacterial Hand Contamination During Routine Neonatal Care

Carmem Lúcia Pessoa‐Silva , MD, Sasi Dharan , MT, Stéphane Hugonnet , MD, MSc, Sylvie Touveneau , RN, Klara Posfay‐Barbe , MD, Riccardo Pfister , MD and Didier Pittet , MD, MS
Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology
Vol. 25, No. 3 (March 2004), pp. 192-197
DOI: 10.1086/502376
Stable URL:
Page Count: 6
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Dynamics of Bacterial Hand Contamination During Routine Neonatal Care
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OBJECTIVE.  To evaluate the dynamics of bacterial contamination of healthcare workers’ (HCWs) hands during neonatal care. SETTING.  The 20‐bed neonatal unit of a large acute care teaching hospital in Geneva, Switzerland. METHODS.  Structured observation sessions were conducted. A sequence of care began when the HCW performed hand hygiene and ended when the activity changed or hand hygiene was performed again. Alcohol‐based handrub was the standard procedure for hand hygiene. An imprint of the five fingertips of the dominant hand was obtained before and after hand hygiene and at the end of a sequence of care. Regression methods were used to model the final bacterial count according to the type and duration of care and the use of gloves. RESULTS.  One hundred forty‐nine sequences of care were observed. Commensal skin flora comprised 72.4% of all culture‐ positive specimens (n = 360). Other microorganisms identified were Enterobacteriaceae (n = 55, 13.8%); Staphylococcus aureus (n = 10, 2.5%); and fungi (n = 7, 1.8%). Skin contact, respiratory care, and diaper change were independently associated with an increased bacterial count; the use of gloves did not fully protect HCWs’ hands from bacterial contamination. CONCLUSIONS.  These data confirm that hands become progressively contaminated with commensal flora and potential pathogens during neonatal care, and identify activities at higher risk for hand contamination. They also reinforce the need for hand hygiene after a sequence of care, before starting a different task, and after glove removal.

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