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July 16, 1982

Stethoscopes and Infection

Author Affiliations

Emory University School of Medicine Atlanta

JAMA. 1982;248(3):310. doi:10.1001/jama.1982.03330030024014

To the Editor.—  We are presently experiencing a hospital-wide outbreak of infections from methicillin- and tobramycin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus.1 Despite intensive epidemiologic surveillance and selective culturing, the exact modes of transmission of the epidemic strain remain unclear.Previous studies2-4 have shown a surprisingly high prevalence of pathogenic organisms cultured from ward stethoscopes. Simple wiping of the bell and diaphragm pieces with standard solutions markedly reduced the rate of colonization.To determine the possible role of stethoscopes in the outbreak of methicillin- and tobramycin-resistant S aureus infections, a sample of stethoscopes used by ward nurses, intensive care unit and coronary care unit nurses, physician associates, respiratory therapists, interns, residents, and faculty members was cultured in the following manner: The bell and diaphragm pieces of each stethoscope were pressed directly onto the selective culture medium ([Trypticase] soy agar with tobramycin, 20 μg/mL) and incubated in 5% carbon dioxide at 35 °C