They don't know from which direction the super bugs are swept in. Feeling more and more unequal in the battle, the British health authorities are going all out, taking no chances anywhere.
They have now proclaimed that from next year on doctors would have to shed the one piece they are identified by, their traditional long-sleeved white coats. Also will be banned are neckties and jewelry, according to new rules published Monday.
Hospital dress codes typically urge doctors to look professional which, for male practitioners, has usually meant wearing a tie.
But the Department of Health notes solemnly, "Ties are rarely laundered but worn daily. They perform no beneficial function in patient care and have been shown to be colonized by pathogens."
Health Secretary Alan Johnson warned that fake nails, jewelry and watches, all of which could harbour germs, are also fiated out.
Johnson said the "bare below the elbows" dress code would help prevent the spread of Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, the deadly bacteria resistant to nearly every available antibiotic.
Popularly known as a "superbug," MRSA accounts for more than 40 percent of in-hospital blood infections in Britain. Because the bacteria is so hard to kill, health care workers have instead focused on containing its spread through improvements to hospital hygiene.
A 2004 study of doctors' neckties at a New York hospital found that nearly half of them carried at least one species of infectious microbe. In 2006, the British Medical Association urged doctors to go without the accessories, calling them "functionless clothing items."
In fact in December last, the Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust laid down almost exactly the same rules. The trust warned that if any of the staff in the hospitals were caught wearing forbidden clothing, the trust would not hesitate to initiate disciplinary action against the guilty.