Aseptic Barriers Allow a Clean Contact for Contaminated Stethoscope Diaphragms


Objective: To determine whether a single-use stethoscope diaphragm barrier surface remains aseptic when placed on pathogen-contaminated stethoscopes.

Methods: From May 31 to August 5, 2019, we tested 2 separate barriers using 3 different strains of 7 human pathogens, including extended-spectrum β-lactamase-producing Escherichia coli, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, and vancomycin resistant Enterococcus faecium.

Results: For all diaphragms with either of the 2 barriers tested, no growth was recorded for any of the pathogens. Stethoscopes with aseptic barriers remained sterile for up to 24 hours. These single-use barriers also provided aseptic surfaces when stethoscope diaphragms were inoculated with human specimens, including saliva, stool, urine, and sputum.

Conclusion: Disposable aseptic diaphragm barriers may provide robust and efficient solutions to reduce transmission of pathogens via stethoscopes.

Keywords: B+, stethoscope diaphragms with disc barriers; BC, disc barriers colonized with microorganisms; B−, colonized diaphragms without disc barriers; CFU, colony-forming unit; Ctrl, control; ESBL, extended-spectrum β-lactamase–producing Escherichia coli; HAI, health care–associated infection; HP, health care provider; MDR, multidrug resistant; MDRO, multidrug-resistant organism; MRSA, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus; VRE, vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus.