Doctor with a blank name tag.What is thought to be one of the most common vehicles for spreading germs in a hospital?  The answer might surprise you: the white lab coat.  Also ranking high are neck ties and wrist watches worn by health care practitioners.

The Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America has released new guidelines  suggesting that the white lab coat be eliminated altogether or hung on an outside hook prior to entering a patient’s room.  They also suggest skipping neckties. Studies have shown that one third of doctor’s neckties are contaminated with Staphylococcus aureus bacteria.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are 1.7 million hospital-acquired infections and 99,000 associated deaths in the United States every year. It is thought that lab coats could carry microbes that transmit diseases within hospitals.  Even so, there have been no conclusive studies establishing lab coats contribute significantly to spreading in-hospital infections; the actual role they play in the transmission of infection is still unknown.

The takeaway?  The days of the white coat are likely numbered.