Originally created 06/28/01

Capsules



Deadly keyboards

The proliferation of computers in medical settings has meant not just technological innovation but also a new and unlikely source of potentially lethal infections: keyboards used by doctors and nurses who don't wash their hands.

That's what a team of infectious-disease specialists at the Tripler Army Medical Center in Honolulu discovered when they cultured 10 computer keyboards in the intensive-care unit eight times over a period of two months. About 25 percent of the samples harbored the bacteria hospital officials fear most: multidrug-resistant staphyloccocus aureus.

This type of bacteria, once easily vanquished by penicillin, is responsible for about 95 percent of hospital-acquired infections nationwide, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It can spread rapidly, particularly among patients with weakened immune systems, and is increasingly resistant to powerful antibiotics, including vancomycin, a drug reserved for the most serious infections.

DNA tests revealed that the same strain of drug-resistant staph was found in two patients during the two-month test period. In addition to s. aureus, researchers detected enterococcus on ICU keyboards; enterococcus can cause life-threatening gastrointestinal infections.

The search for germ-infested keyboards was inspired not by an outbreak of hospital-acquired infections but by a suspicion that keyboards may be unrecognized reservoirs of harmful bacteria, according to Tripler physicians, whose findings were recently published in the American Journal of Infection Control.

All about psoriasis

Psoriasis, a chronic skin disease characterized by scaling and inflammation, affects between 1 percent and 2 percent of the U.S. population, or about 5.5 million people.

Patients suffering from psoriasis may experience intense discomfort (including pain and itching), limited motion in their joints and emotional distress.

In its most typical form, psoriasis results in patches of thick, red skin covered with silvery scales. These patches, sometimes called plaques, frequently itch and burn. Moreover, about 15 percent of people suffering from psoriasis also exhibit joint inflammation, which in turn produces arthritic symptoms.

The National Psoriasis Foundation, whose objective is to promote community awareness of psoriasis, offers an online information clearinghouse, including physician referrals, pamphlets and newsletters, and updates on research efforts. It's at www.psoriasis.org.