Researchers at a New York hospital have found nearly half of the neckties worn by medical personnel are contaminated with bacteria.
"Although wearing a necktie may project a certain professionalism by the clinician that may increase patient confidence, it may also be accompanied by potential risks," says their study, which was released yesterday.
The quirky findings by researchers at the New York Hospital Medical Center of Queens was reported in New Orleans at a meeting of the American Society for Microbiology.
Compared with the neckties worn by your lowly hospital security guard, a doctor's tie is eight times more likely to be tainted by germs, the study says, reports theglobeandmail.com
According to suntimes.com while neckties are by no means the only clothing that can serve as a reservoir for bacteria, they tend to be less sanitary than many other garments, Nurkin noted.
"Other articles of clothing are easily washable," he said. "Most people don't wash their neckties often."
Dr. Gary Noskin, an infectious disease doctor at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, called the study interesting. But he wasn't about to hang up his neckties for good.
"Even if people's ties do become contaminated, the risk of transmitting bacteria to a patient is relatively low, and it's preventable if you wash your hands," Noskin said.
University of Chicago's Dr. Bennett Leventhal switched from neckties to bow ties about 17 years ago.
"Neckties are probably a bigger problem than bow ties because you're more likely to drag them through things," said Leventhal, a child and adolescent psychiatrist. "That's one of the reasons I don't wear them.
"The other distinct advantage of a bow tie, particularly when you work with children, is it's less to grab on to."
Mr. Nurkin said he proposed the study when, during a rotation on the hospital's surgery ward, he noticed that the ties invariably worn by male doctors often swung close to or touched patients when the doctors leaned over hospital beds.
Other research has found that doctors' pens, cellphones and pagers can harbor potentially harmful micro-organisms.
The microbes found on 20 of 42 ties included strains that commonly cause in-hospital infections, although none were of the drug-resistant kind that cause the most concern.
Mr. Nurkin acknowledged that the study showed only that ties can harbor diseases, not that they transmit them. But he noted that it might not occur to doctors to wash their hands after handling their ties. And unlike white coats, ties are often worn many times between cleanings, informs nytimes.com