Safety Alert Number 0903236

Hazards: Ambulance stethoscopes may pose risk. Stethoscopes carried by ambulance crews are not always cleaned as often as they should be, and as a result they may
be exposing some patients to drug-resistant bacteria, a new study reports. Researchers who looked at stethoscopes
used by emergency medical services workers in New Jersey found that a significant number carried Methicillin-
Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus, bacteria known as MRSA that are resistant to standard drugs. Some of the
ambulance workers could not recall the last time the instruments had been cleaned, said the researchers, whose report
appears in the current issue of Prehospital Emergency Care. The study's lead author said it was unclear how big a
threat MRSA on a stethoscope posed to a patient. But as incidents of infection by the bacteria become more common,
and with the possibility that it will become more resistant to antibiotics, it is important to reduce its spread, he said.