The aim of this study was to determine the extent of the contamination of stethoscopes and their possible role in transmission of microorganisms. The stethoscopes of the medical doctors of the hospital of La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland, were cultured and the date of the last cleaning recorded. 38 of the 62 stethoscopes surveyed were contaminated with microorganisms (61%). The majority of isolated organisms were gram-positive bacteria, primarily Staphylococcus species (89%). The cleaning of the stethoscopes was frequent for 32% of the doctors, rare for 46% and non-existent for 22%. After more than one day without cleaning of the stethoscope, the level of contamination rose from 0% to 69%. Stethoscope use may be an important factor in the spread of infectious agents, so that regular disinfection should be carried out (once a day at the very least).