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Researchers to health care facilities: Clean or replace privacy curtains every two weeks

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Winnipeg, Manitoba — Hospital privacy curtains may be breeding grounds for antibiotic-resistant bacteria such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, a recent study led by researchers at the University of Manitoba shows.

To measure contamination levels of the curtains throughout the 21-day study, the researchers took cultures from 10 freshly laundered curtains “near the edge hem where they are most frequently touched” at the Regional Burns/Plastics Unit of the Health Sciences Center. Eight of the curtains were near patient beds and two were in unoccupied staff rooms.

Over time, the curtains became increasingly contaminated and, by the 14-day mark, five of the curtains near patients tested positive for MRSA.

“We know that privacy curtains pose a high risk for cross-contamination because they are frequently touched but infrequently changed,” lead author Kevin Shek said in a Sept. 28 press release. “The high rate of contamination that we saw by the 14th day may represent an opportune time to intervene, either by cleaning or replacing the curtains.”

The study authors note that none of the patients occupying the rooms had MRSA. Additionally, none of the curtains in the unoccupied rooms tested positive for MRSA.

The study, which notes the small sample size and the need for further research, was published in the September issue of the American Journal of Infection Control.

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