ICU stethoscopes are teeming with bacteria

More than half are infected and cleaning doesn't always work

Germophobes who use their elbow to open toilet doors have a new horror to grapple with, after US research has revealed stethoscopes used in the ICU are crawling with bacteria.

The 40 stethoscopes tested were seething with complex bacterial communities linked to healthcare-associated infections, including ubiquitous Staphylococcus, the University of Pennsylvania researchers have found.

Doctors’ stethoscopes were the most manky, followed in bacterial grossness by disposable single-use patient room stethoscopes, with clean controls the least infected, they report in Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology.

All doctors’ stethoscopes carried Staphylococcus, and more than half were infected with S. aureus, while most carried Pseudomonas and Acinetobacter.

Around half of the stethoscopes carried Enterococcus, Stenotrophomonas