Revisiting the “leading edge” of hospital privacy curtains in the medical intensive care unit

Leah Brown, Safia Siddiqui, Allison McMullen, Jennifer Waller, Stephanie Baer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Background: Privacy curtains within medical intensive care unit (MICU) rooms are a potential contributor to health care associated infections. The “leading edge” of a hospital curtain, estimated to be the edge most frequently touched, likely plays a role in health care associated infections at hospitals. The aims of this study were to (1) compare the bacterial load of the edge vs the middle of curtains in the MICU, and (2) determine the identity and distribution of relevant pathogens colonizing them. Methods: The edge and middle sections of 8 curtains in MICU rooms (4 contact precaution and 4 noncontact precaution) were sampled for culture on patient and staff sides. Bacterial loads of edges and middles were compared. Select isolates were further analyzed for species identification. Results: There was a statistically significant difference for the contact (t = 2.10, P =.047) and noncontact (t = 2.62, P =.016) rooms, with the edges having a significantly higher median than the middles. Pathogens such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, Enterococcus, Klebsiella, and Acinetobacter were found on the curtains, though at lower rates than in previous studies. Opportunistic fungi were also found on all curtains. Conclusions: Results of this study confirm that hospital curtains, most notably the edge but also the middle, are contaminated with pathogens, and that these areas are frequently touched by health care workers in between hand hygiene.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)746-750
Number of pages5
JournalAmerican Journal of Infection Control
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2020


  • Fomite
  • Healthcare environmental culture
  • High touch surfaces
  • Hospital acquired infection
  • Infection control

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Health Policy
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Infectious Diseases


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