In 2019, the NY Times published an article discussing the many medical studies designed to understand the risk of patient infection from medical garments. A systematic review of this literature showed that as many as 16 percent of white coats tested positive for MRSA, and up to 42 percent for the bacterial class Gram-negative rods. Both types of bacteria can cause serious problems, including skin and bloodstream infections, sepsis and pneumonia.
It isn’t just white coats that can be problematic. The Systematic review also found that stethoscopes, phones and tablets can be contaminated with harmful bacteria. One study of orthopedic surgeons showed a 45 percent match between the species of bacteria found on their ties and in the wounds of patients they had treated.
Daily laundering of health care workers’ attire can help somewhat, though studies show that bacteria can contaminate them within hours.