Rate of contamination of hospital privacy curtains in a burns/plastic ward: A longitudinal study

Am J Infect Control. 2018 Sep;46(9):1019-1021. doi: 10.1016/j.ajic.2018.03.004. Epub 2018 Apr 11.


Background: Since hospital patient privacy curtains can harbor bacteria, are high-touch surfaces, and are cleaned infrequently, they may be involved in pathogen transmission. The aim of this longitudinal prospective study was to understand curtain contamination to inform curtain hygiene protocols, thereby minimizing the role of curtains in pathogen transmission.

Methods: Over 21 days, cultures of 10 freshly laundered curtains (8 test curtains surrounding patient beds and 2 controls in an unoccupied staff room) were taken in the Regional Burns/Plastics Unit. Contact plates were used to sample the curtains near the edge hem where they are most frequently touched. Microbial contamination and the presence of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) were determined.

Results: By day 3, test curtains showed increased microbial contamination (mean colony-forming units [CFU]/cm2 = 1.17) compared to control curtains (mean CFU/cm2 = 0.19). Test curtains became increasingly contaminated over time, with mean CFU/cm2 for days 17 and 21 of 1.86 and 5.11, respectively. By day 10, 1/8 test curtains tested positive for MRSA, and 5/8 were positive by day 14.

Conclusions: Patient privacy curtains became progressively contaminated with bacteria, including MRSA. Between days 10 and 14 after being hung, curtains showed increased MRSA positivity. This may represent an opportune time to intervene, either by cleaning or replacing the curtains.

Keywords: Curtains; Environmental sampling; Hospital-acquired infection; Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus; Wounds.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Burn Units*
  • Colony Count, Microbial
  • Environmental Microbiology*
  • Hospitals
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus / isolation & purification
  • Pilot Projects
  • Privacy
  • Prospective Studies
  • Textiles / microbiology*
  • Time Factors