Are there germs on your sleeves? New lab coat technology could kill infections

By: June 30th, 2010 Email This Post Print This Post

Lab coats and hospital scrubs have come under scrutiny as more health experts express concern that dangerous pathogens could be hiding on the sleeves of lab coats.

At its annual meeting, the American Medical Association recently announced plans to conduct formal research on “textile transmission of infections,” according to a press release. Some hospitals overseas have already adopted “bare below the elbows” policies that ban ties, lab coats, jewelry, and long sleeves.

But one doctor has used an FDA-approved silver-based antimicrobial compound that can kill resistant pathogens such as MRSA, E. coli and Salmonella. The compound, called Tri-Active, is embedded into the lab coats. The inventor, Charles Kinder, MD, a heart rhythm expert and director of the Heart Rhythm Program at Heart Care Centers of Illinois, launched his own company called “DocFroc,” where you can purchase the coats.

“There isn’t a doctor or hospital administrator out there who isn’t interested in reducing medical accidents,” Kinder says in the press release. “Our job is to keep patients safe when they’re in our care. What’s important here is another step, another practical way to control infection that can be easily adopted by hospitals and medical staff everywhere.”

You can find more information on lab coats, including a price comparison formula, in the Complete Guide to Laboratory Safety, 3rd Edition, by Terry Jo Gile.


By Kara Elam, MPH on June 30th, 2010 at 1:26 pm

Reducing infection rates requires a horizontal multi-model approach, with the use of appropriate protective clothing being one of several important components of such a program. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have stated that “Clothing, uniforms, laboratory coats, or isolation gowns used as personal protective equipment may become contaminated with potential pathogens after care of a patient colonized or infected with an infectious agent, (e.g., MRSA, VRE, and C. difficile). Although contaminated clothing has not been implicated directly in transmission, the potential exists for soiled garments to transfer infectious agents to successive patients.” It is for this reason that the American Medical Association (AMA) is putting emphasis on the need for either a “bare below the elbows” approach, or the implementation of textiles with antimicrobial properties used throughout the hospital environment.

For the AMA to consider a technical textile to be an effective alternative to “bare below the elbows” for infection control in the hospital environment, the textile will have to undergo rigorous clinical trials. There is one technical textile company that understands the importance of clinical research in showing the effectiveness of its product, and that company is Vestagen Technical Textiles LLC. Vestagen is currently putting its products through multiple research trials in various institutions. This company is not satisfied merely with the data it has from laboratory studies, it wants to show that it can effectively reduce microbial transmission in a real world hospital environment. More on the current research initiatives implemented by Vestagen can be found on the company’s website

Other articles of interest:

By kitty sauber on July 1st, 2010 at 12:45 am

Clothing/shoes that are worn “under” lab coats may
possibly also contribute to spreading contaminants,
as Lab coats provide only partial covers. Just a concern
that perhaps even Lab coats may not be enough
protection .

In May 2010, it was reported in newspapers and on
AOL NEWS (internet) of a recent research with findings
of unseen contaminants present on “new clothing”.
Clothing was tested in various department stores/stores.

By Aruna Vadgama, RN, CPHQ on July 6th, 2010 at 2:18 am

This is an important news. Who will mandate the IC practices? Perhaps, CMS should take a lead and delegate to the deemed status accrediting organizations to provide best practice guidelines.

By Anthony Slusser on July 12th, 2010 at 10:34 am

It is important to openly discuss the possible spread of infection by lab coats where there is direct patient contact with the personnel. However, it is equally important to delineate the task PPE requirements, i.e. not bare below the elbow for clinical laboratory work. There will inevitably be confusion and those who seek to use the discussion as reason to “roll up sleeves” on tasks that mandate full coverage, including gloves. The article is well written, but shouldn’t there be at least a small statement of limitations on the exclusionary use of “bare below the elbow” to aid Laboratory Safety Officers in maintaining prudent practices in specific areas of the clinical laboratory?

By Kara Elam, MPH on February 28th, 2011 at 8:02 am

It is well known that textiles worn in the laboratory, such as lab coats, are vectors in the spread of pathogens. This is especially true in labs that focus on clinical and translational research where exposure to pathogenic microorganisms is a constant. Data suggests that there is a casual relationship between microbes on laboratory workers uniforms and associated occupational exposure to infectious agents such as blood and body fluids.

Realizing this causal relationship, new textile technologies for Personnel Protective Equipment (PPE), such as a lab coat, must include fluid barriers to help reduce exposures by means of chemical or biological substances, broad spectrum antimicrobials to help control microorganisms, and the lab coat must be comfortable and also breathable. A breathable and comfortable lab coat will ensure that it is worn correctly and therefore effectively, because you can use all the latest textile technology in your lab coat; but if it is not comfortable it will not be used correctly as a PPE. And if your laboratory employees are not wearing their lab coats correctly, then they are leaving themselves vulnerable to harmful pathogens and chemical exposures due to the lack of a sufficient barrier to exposed skin.

There are many smart technical textile companies that provide PPEs. But I have found only one that provides PPEs that have all three of the important components for textiles used in high-risk areas; fluid barrier protection, a broad spectrum antimicrobial, and a comfortable fit made with breathable fabric. The company is Vestagen, and they are based out of Orlando Florida. Vestagen’s website provides information on the clinical and laboratory research they have conducted, as well as an easy format to purchase your laboratory coats and other PPEs.

The use of technical textiles in conjunction with current laboratory safety guidelines should be the new standard to protect workers in a high-risk environment such as the lab


Leave a Comment


« | Home | »

Subscribe - Get blog updates via e-mail

  • test
  • HCPro Broadcast Events Calendar