Survival of enterococci and staphylococci on hospital fabrics and plastic

J Clin Microbiol. 2000 Feb;38(2):724-6. doi: 10.1128/JCM.38.2.724-726.2000.


The transfer of gram-positive bacteria, particularly multiresistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE), among patients is a growing concern. One critical aspect of bacterial transfer is the ability of the microorganism to survive on various common hospital surfaces. The purpose of this study was to determine the survival of 22 gram-positive bacteria (vancomycin-sensitive and -resistant enterococci and methicillin-sensitive and -resistant staphylococci) on five common hospital materials: smooth 100% cotton (clothing), 100% cotton terry (towels), 60% cotton-40% polyester blend (scrub suits and lab coats), 100% polyester (privacy drapes), and 100% polypropylene plastic (splash aprons). Swatches were inoculated with 10(4) to 10(5) CFU of a microorganism, assayed daily by placing the swatches in nutritive media, and examining for growth after 48 h. All isolates survived for at least 1 day, and some survived for more than 90 days on the various materials. Smaller inocula (10(2)) survived for shorter times but still generally for days. Antibiotic sensitivity had no consistent effect on survival. The long survival of these bacteria, including MRSA and VRE, on commonly used hospital fabrics, such as scrub suits, lab coats, and hospital privacy drapes, underscores the need for meticulous contact control procedures and careful disinfection to limit the spread of these bacteria.

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Colony Count, Microbial
  • Enterococcus / drug effects
  • Enterococcus / growth & development*
  • Gram-Positive Bacterial Infections / microbiology
  • Hospitals*
  • Humans
  • Methicillin / pharmacology
  • Methicillin Resistance
  • Penicillins / pharmacology
  • Plastics*
  • Polyesters
  • Polypropylenes
  • Staphylococcal Infections / microbiology
  • Staphylococcus / drug effects
  • Staphylococcus / growth & development*
  • Textiles / microbiology*
  • Vancomycin / pharmacology
  • Vancomycin Resistance


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Penicillins
  • Plastics
  • Polyesters
  • Polypropylenes
  • Vancomycin
  • Methicillin