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Monday, December 12, 2011

Inadvertent fecal transplants


If you read yesterday’s post, you know that fecal transplants can be effective weapons against microbial pathogens.  That’s good news considering that medical students do not know when to wash their hands.

Eighty-five medical students at Hannover Medical School who were about to begin clinical studies (meaning that they were to begin examining and treating real patients) were given a questionnaire asking whether hand washing was required under various scenarios.  For example, must you wash your hands after removing gloves?  Answer:  yes.  How about after touching a patient’s bed?  Also yes.  Only a third of the students got all the answers right.

Interestingly, the medical students predicted that they would have better hand-washing compliance than nursing students, when in fact the reverse was true.  Nursing students were much better at washing their hands than were medical students. 

Needless to say, this was a small study at a single school.  It does highlight the need for teaching students when to wash their hands and for ensuring that experienced health care professionals continue to exercise proper hand-washing protocols.  As helpful as they may be, nobody wants unsolicited fecal transfers.