infections. Patients with weakened immune systems or skin conditions such as eczema could be particularly vulnerable to dirty stethoscopes.
Anyone due for a medical examination would be well advised to steer clear of their doctor's stethoscope. If British doctors are anything like their US counterparts, it will probably harbour all kinds of bacteria. A study of 150 staff in a Michigan Hospital, published in the Annals of Emergency Medicine, found that while doctors and nurses regularly washed their hands, they were not so careful about their stethoscopes - almost 6 per cent said they had never been cleaned at all. Almost every stethoscope examined contained bacteria, while one in five were contaminated with Staphylococcus aureus, which can cause serious