Is there a risk for bacterial transmission from surgical marker pens?

Petra Brinskelle, Elisabeth König*, Gerald Sendlhofer, Kathrin Annemarie Baumhackl, Raimund Winter, Isabelle Sawetz, Lars-Peter Kamolz, Ivo Steinmetz, Herwig Friedl, David Benjamin Lumenta

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Markers for preoperative skin marking are used several times and bear a risk of transmitting bacteria. Bacterial contamination was assessed by sonication and culture. Antimicrobial susceptibility testing (AST) was performed for facultative pathogens to assess multi-drug resistance (MDR). An accelerated failure time model was applied to assess the statistical relationship between the bacterial contamination and the filling status of markers. Of 45 markers, 13 had a colony count <10 cfu/mL and 32 had counts from 10 to 12,500 cfu/mL. Three markers were colonized by Staphylococcus aureus. No MDR bacteria were found. We recommend single use of markers to reduce transmission risk.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)254-257
Number of pages4
JournalThe Journal of Hospital Infection
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2020


  • Bacterial contamination
  • Colonization
  • Markers
  • Multi-drug resistance
  • Sonication
  • Surgical site identification

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Infectious Diseases


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