Contamination of Hospital Curtains With Healthcare-Associated Pathogens

Floyd Trillis, III, BS; Elizabeth C. Eckstein, RN;

Rachel Budavich, BS; Michael J. Pultz;

Curtis J. Donskey, MD

In a culture survey, we found that 42% of hospital privacy curtains were contaminated with vancomycin-resistant enterococci, 22% with methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, and 4% with Clostridium difficile. Hand imprint cultures demonstrated that these pathogens were easily acquired on hands. Hospital curtains are a potential source for dissemination of healthcare-associated pathogens.

Infect Control Hosp Epidemiol 2008; 29:1074-1076


A recent study conducted by the University of Iowa found that 95 percent of hospital privacy curtains tested were contaminated with bacteria; some were even coated in MRSA. Researchers found 200 times more bacteria on privacy curtains than a toilet seat!

For the study, scientists swabbed 43 hospital curtains twice a week for three weeks. They analyzed 180 samples, and found germs on 119. Twenty-six percent of curtains tested positive for the potentially deadly antibiotic-resistant Staphylococcus aureus bacteria known as MRSA, and 44 percent tested positive for a form of enterococcus bacteria—some of which were antibiotic resistant.

Researchers placed 13 new curtains in a hospital for the study. Within a week, 12 were contaminated.

"The hospital environment plays an important role in the transmission of infections in the health care setting, and it's clear that these privacy curtains are potentially important sites of contamination because they are frequently touched by patients and providers," said study author Dr. Michael Ohl, assistant professor of internal medicine at the University of Iowa.

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