Bacterial contamination of healthcare workers' uniforms: a randomized controlled trial of antimicrobial scrubs

J Hosp Med. 2013 Jul;8(7):380-5. doi: 10.1002/jhm.2051. Epub 2013 Jun 12.


Background: Healthcare workers' (HCWs) uniforms become contaminated with bacteria during normal use, and this may contribute to hospital-acquired infections. Antimicrobial uniforms are currently marketed as a means of reducing this contamination.

Objective: To compare the extent of bacterial contamination of uniforms and skin when HCWs wear 1 of 2 antimicrobial scrubs or standard scrubs.

Design: Prospective, randomized, controlled trial.

Setting: University-affiliated, public safety net hospital

Participants: Hospitalist physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, housestaff, and nurses (total N = 105) working on internal medicine units.

Intervention: Subjects were randomized to wear standard scrubs or 1 of 2 antimicrobial scrubs.

Measurements: Bacterial colony counts in cultures taken from the HCWs' scrubs and wrists after an 8-hour workday.

Results: The median (interquartile range) total colony counts was 99 (66-182) for standard scrubs, 137 (84-289) for antimicrobial scrub type A, and 138 (62-274) for antimicrobial scrub type B (P = 0.36). Colony counts from participants' wrists were 16 (5-40) when they wore standard scrubs and 23 (4-42) and 15 (6-54) when they wore antimicrobial scrubs A and B, respectively (P = 0.92). Resistant organisms were cultured from 3 HCWs (4.3%) randomized to antimicrobial scrubs and none randomized to standard scrubs (P = 0.55). Six participants (5.7%) reported side effects to wearing scrubs, all of whom wore antimicrobial scrubs (P = 0.18).

Conclusions: We found no evidence that either antimicrobial scrub product decreased bacterial contamination of HCWs' uniforms or skin after an 8-hour workday.

Trial registration: NCT01537835.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Infective Agents* / administration & dosage
  • Bacterial Load / methods*
  • Clothing / standards*
  • Colony Count, Microbial / methods
  • Equipment Contamination / prevention & control*
  • Health Personnel / standards*
  • Prospective Studies


  • Anti-Infective Agents

Associated data