Hospital privacy curtains are breeding MRSA, study finds

Privacy curtains in hospitals can pose a threat to patient safety, with high percentages of curtains testing positive for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, a study published in the American Journal of Infection Control found.

The researchers tracked the contamination rate of 10 freshly laundered privacy curtains at a hospital in Winnipeg, Canada.

The curtains had minimal contamination when they were first hung, but curtains hung in patient rooms became increasingly contaminated over time. By day 14 of the study period, 87.5 percent of the curtains tested positive for MRSA. Curtains that were not placed in patient rooms, however, stayed clean the entire 21 days of the study.  

None of the rooms where the curtains were placed were occupied by patients with MRSA. The researchers took samples from areas where people hold curtains, which suggests increasing contamination resulted from direct contact.

"We know that privacy curtains pose a high risk for cross-contamination because they are frequently touched but infrequently changed," said lead study author Kevin Shek. "The high rate of contamination that we saw by the 14th day may represent an opportune time to intervene, either by cleaning or replacing the curtains."

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