Bacterial contamination of surgical gloves by water droplets spilt after scrubbing

J Hosp Infect. 2003 Feb;53(2):136-9. doi: 10.1053/jhin.2002.1352.


Wound infection and deep sepsis can have disastrous consequences, particularly in orthopaedic surgery. Strict protocols, ultra-clean air, prophylactic antibiotics, and impervious gowns and drapes, have all been shown to diminish wound infection. However it remains a common and significant problem. The water droplets spilt from the surgeons hands after meticulous scrubbing with povidone iodine were cultured. The permeability of the surgical glove packaging to Gram-positive bacteria was also investigated. The water droplets from the surgeon's arms contained environmental and potentially pathogenic bacteria including a micrococcus, a coliform and coagulase-negative staphylococci. The paper packaging for the range of sterile surgical gloves tested was discovered to be permeable to Gram-positive bacteria. In conclusion accidental water droplet contamination of surgical gloves is a potential source of infection. Alternative recommendations are made.

MeSH terms

  • Equipment Contamination
  • Equipment Failure
  • Gloves, Surgical / microbiology*
  • Gram-Negative Bacteria / growth & development*
  • Gram-Negative Bacteria / isolation & purification
  • Humans
  • Surgical Wound Infection / etiology*
  • Water Microbiology*