A national effort to reduce nosocomial infections includes a program developed at the National Institutes of Health to encourage handwashing in hospitals and day care centers. The program promotes a symbolic teddy bear (T. Bear) with slogans to remind hospital personnel and patients to practice handwashing. One of the items used is a stuffed toy T. Bear to be dispensed to the hospitalized child. Considering the manner in which children handle stuffed toys, we suspected the T. Bear might serve as a 'fomite' for transmission of nosocomial microbes. A prospective study of 39 sterilized T. Bears revealed that all became colonized with bacteria, fungi, or both within 1 week of hospitalization. Hospital acquired organisms cultured from the T. Bear included Staphylococcus epidermidis, Staphylococcus aureus, alpha streptococci, Corynebacterium acnes, Micrococcus sp, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Escherichia coli, Bacillus sp, and species of Candida, Cryptococcus, Trichosporon, Aspergillus and others. Concomitant cultures of the patients revealed similar isolates. Although the T. Bear handwashing campaign should not be discredited, the promotional toy may pose an unnecessary expense and hazard and should not be used in hospitals or day care centers.
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