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What should doctors wear?

BMJ 2008; 337 doi: (Published 24 September 2008) Cite this as: BMJ 2008;337:a938
  1. Kiran K Turaga, chief surgical resident1,
  2. Gargi Bhagavatula, junior dentist2
  1. 1Department of Surgery, Creighton University Medical Center, Omaha, Nebraska
  2. 2Oris Dental Clinic, Mumbai, India
  1. Correspondence to: K Turaga kturaga{at}

    Clostridium difficile and meticillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) have shifted the focus of infection prevention from the specialists in infectious diseases to the wider public realm. The attire of physicians and surgeons is being posited as a carrier of these infections, and politicians are calling for doctors’ clothing to be changed as a measure to fight the spread of infection.

    Last September’s move by the UK health secretary, Alan Johnson, to get rid of the long sleeved white coat raised many eyebrows ( A few studies have shown the white coat to be a carrier of bacteria, although the quality of the evidence is low. Cultures grown from samples taken from medical students’ coats have shown bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus, especially on the sleeves and in the pockets.1 But, as can be expected, similar cultures could be obtained from scrubs or even street clothes. Two assumptions lie behind the targeting of the white coat as a source of infection: that it is not washed as often as other clothing; and that the long sleeves act as barriers …

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