Public Release: 

Doctor's neckties: a reservoir for bacteria?

American Society for Microbiology

NEW ORLEANS - May 24, 2004 --A study by researchers at the New York Hospital Medical Center of Queens finds that nearly half of neckties worn by medical personnel harbor bacteria that can cause disease. They report their findings today at the 104th General Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology.

"Studies such as this remind us about what we may bring to our patients' bedside. By increasing our awareness and making simple behavioral changes we may be able to provide a better quality of healthcare," says Steven Nurkin, one of the researchers on the study.

Nurkin and his colleagues sampled neckties worn by physicians, physician assistants and medical students at a teaching hospital in New York. For comparison purposes, they also sampled neckties worn by security personnel at the hospital. Nearly half (47.6%) of the neckties worn by clinicians were found to harbor potential disease-causing bacteria. The odds of a clinician wearing a necktie harboring pathogens were 8-fold greater than that of security personnel.

"This study brings into question whether wearing a necktie is in the best interest of our patients," says Nurkin. "Being well dressed adds to an aura of professionalism and has been correlated with higher patient confidence. Senior physicians and hospital administrators often encourage staff to wear neckties in order to help promote this valuable relationship, but in so doing, they may also be facilitating the spread of infectious organisms."

"While there is no direct evidence to implicate neckties in the transmission of infection to patients, the link between contaminated necktie and the potential for transmission must be considered," says Nurkin.


This release is a summary of a presentation from the 104th General Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology, May 23-27, 2004, in New Orleans, Louisiana. Additional information on these and other presentations at the 104th ASM General Meeting can be found online at or by contacting Jim Sliwa ( in the ASM Office of Communications. The phone number for the General Meeting Press Room is 504-670-4240 and will be active from 12:00 noon CDT, May 23 until 12:00 noon CDT, May 27.

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