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Can J Infect Control. 2007 Fall;22(3):162, 165-6.

Identification badges: a potential fomite?

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Department of Pediatrics, McMaster University, Hamilton.



Staff identification badges are mandatory in all hospitals. The purpose of this study was to assess microbial contamination of identification badges at a Canadian tertiary centre. Risk factors for badge contamination were also investigated.


Badges were cultured from 118 subjects including secretaries, physicians, nurses, and allied health workers. Subjects also completed a demographic questionnaire. Badge contamination was analyzed according to profession, workplace, duration of badge use, presence of a plastic cover, how the badge was worn, and cleaning frequency.


13.6% of the badges were contaminated with significant pathogens. S. aureus was isolated in 6.8% of the badges, gram-negative bacilli in 5.9%. Contamination was highest in nurses (21.4% versus 9.4-14.3% in other professions) and in the ICU (22.6% versus 8.3%-14.3% at other locations). Neither association was statistically significant. Covered and non-covered badges had similar contamination rates (12% and 17.1%) as did badges worn around the neck compared with those worn clipped to clothing (13.0% versus 14.6%). Contamination of recently cleaned badges was not statistically different from those that had not.


Identification badges do not appear to be a major reservoir for pathogenic organisms. Badges can, however, harbour disease-causing organisms and should be cleaned regularly.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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