To determine the prevalence of contaminated stethoscopes;
To demonstrate bacteriological contamination on agar plates and
To demonstrate the effectiveness of alcowipes in disinfecting stethoscopes
Methods 40 stethoscopes were sampled for colony forming units (CFU) on agar plates and proformas regarding cleaning practices were completed by medical staff. Five stethoscopes were then randomly chosen and cleaned by alcowipes (isopropyl alcohol 70%) and CFU were counted following incubation.
Results 37 stethoscopes grew skin flora (2 additionally grew coliforms; 1 MSSA; 1 non-lactose fermenting bacteria; 1 grew Group B Streptococcus); 3 grew nothing. Of the 7 stethoscopes which had not been cleaned before, the median CFU was 100 (IQR 17.5 to 129), which was significantly higher (p<0.05) than the other 33 stethoscopes which had been reported as being cleaned at some point (12 CFU; IQR 5 to 21).
Conclusion It is advisable to regularly clean the diaphragm of the stethoscope and its parts, using 70% alcohol, in order to effectively reduce the bacterial load and hence prevent potential transmission to patients.