Because stethoscopes might be potential vectors of nosocomial infections, this study, conducted in a 450-bed general hospital, was devised to evaluate the bacterial contamination of stethoscopes; bacterial survival on stethoscope membranes; the kinetics of the bacterial load on stethoscope membranes during clinical use; and the efficacy of 70% alcohol or liquid soap for membrane disinfection. Among the 355 stethoscopes tested, 234 carried ≥2 different bacterial species; 31 carried potentially pathogenic bacteria. Although some bacteria deposited onto membranes could survive 6 to 18 hours, none survived after disinfection.
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