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Fingernail police are coming. (Infectious Diseases).

Long fingernails spread nosocomial infections, Dr. Shelly A. McNeil reported at the annual meeting of the Infectious Diseases Society of America.

Nails extending more than 3 mm beyond the fingertip are more likely to harbor pathogens and shouldn't be worn by any health care workers in contact with vulnerable patients, such as those with surgical wounds, catheters, or intravenous lines, according to Dr. McNeil of Dalhousie University in Halifax, N.S.

She measured subungual nail length for all five fingers on the dominant hand of 18 health care workers, none of whom wore artificial nails. She also swabbed the nail surfaces and collected subungual debris before and after use of an antimicrobial soap or alcohol-based gel, culturing the material for gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria and yeasts on two separate occasions.

All seven subjects whose mean nail length exceeded 3 mm harbored pathogens, predominantly Klebsiella species and Candida parapsilosis Pathogens were recovered from 2 of 11 subjects with shorter fingernails. Mean nail length for health care workers with pathogenic organisms on their nails was 3.8 mm, compared with 2.3 mm in those from whom no pathogens were isolated.

Hand washing with antimicrobial soaps and alcohol-based gels proved equally effective in removing pathogens from the fingernails of all subjects, regardless of nail length. But "in real life, hand washing may not be as effective at ridding nails of germs," Dr. McNeil said.
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Author:Kubetin, Sally Koch
Publication:OB GYN News
Date:Jan 15, 2002
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