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Hospital computers may serve as a reservoir for drug-resistant bacteria, according to a recent study. Given the trends toward electronic record-keeping, order entry, and bedside computer placement, the findings have important infection control implications.


Researchers contaminated clean computer keyboards and keyboard covers with vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus faecium (VRE), methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), and Pseudomonas aeruginosa (PSAE). Samples taken at regular intervals from the keyboards and covers showed that VRE and MRSA can survive for prolonged periods. Although less hardy, PSAE survived on keyboards for 1 hour and on covers for 5 minutes.


Bacteria were transmissible from keyboards and covers to both bare and gloved fingers, and transmission increased with repeated contact. Transmission rates for VRE and MRSA were higher for bare hands than gloved hands (67% versus 7% for VRE, and 80% versus 67% for MRSA).


A 10-minute dwell time of hospital-grade germicidal products disinfected the keyboards and covers. But continual exposure to disinfectants may reduce keyboard durability.


Researchers suggest that disposable covers may offer a good alternative to disinfecting keyboards. But as always, the best way to prevent disease transmission is to observe meticulous hand hygiene before and after patient contact.


The research was presented at the 15th annual scientific meeting of the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America in Los Angeles, Calif.