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Neckties worn by male physicians may harbor bacteria dangerous to patients, according to a study by an American medical student who's completing his course work in Israel. The student, Steven Nurkin, examined 42 ties from physicians and clinical workers and found that 20 (48%) contained at least one infectious microbe. Examining 10 neckties from security guards, he found that only 1 contained an infectious microbe.


Accustomed to the casual, open-collar dress style at Israeli hospitals, Nurkin came up with the idea for his study while completing an elective course at a New York hospital, where most physicians wore neckties. Nurkin said he saw neckties swing over bedding, touch patients and equipment, and get coughed on. Despite their potential for contamination, the neckties were rarely washed.

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Nurkin presented his findings at a conference of the American Society of Microbiology in New Orleans, La., in May. Some conference attendees advised taking the findings of this small study with a grain of salt, noting that a patient's risk of contracting an infection from a necktie is probably minimal.