Advertisement

Correct use of the word ‘fomites’: its etymology is important

      Readers of the Journal of Hospital Infection as well as members of the public will have been made aware of recent research

      Nurkin S. Is the clinicians necktie a potential fomite for hospital-acquired infections? Paper read at 104th Meeting of American Society for Microbiology, New Orleans, LA, 23–27 May 2004. (Abstract available via www.asm.org/Media/index.asp?bid=27377).

      carried out in the USA showing that doctors' neckties harbour potentially pathogenic bacteria. This paper was reported widely in the National Press and other media. An unexpected side-effect of this research is that the general public has been introduced to the concept of ‘fomites’ as inanimate objects capable of aiding the spread of infectious organisms. In my experience, there is much misunderstanding about the pronunciation, derivation and proper usage of ‘fomites’. It should be noted that in the title of the paper in question, the word ‘fomite’ was used. This is an incorrect form, as it assumes that ‘fomites’ is an English word. In fact, the word is Latin (pronounced foe-mitt-aze), and is the plural form of ‘fomes’ (pronounced foe-maze), meaning dust or tinder. Thus, there is no such word as ‘fomite’; a necktie, in the context of this discussion, should properly be referred to as a ‘fomes’.
      To read this article in full you will need to make a payment

      Purchase one-time access:

      Academic & Personal: 24 hour online accessCorporate R&D Professionals: 24 hour online access
      One-time access price info
      • For academic or personal research use, select 'Academic and Personal'
      • For corporate R&D use, select 'Corporate R&D Professionals'

      Subscribe:

      Subscribe to Journal of Hospital Infection
      Already a print subscriber? Claim online access
      Already an online subscriber? Sign in
      Institutional Access: Sign in to ScienceDirect

      References

      1. Nurkin S. Is the clinicians necktie a potential fomite for hospital-acquired infections? Paper read at 104th Meeting of American Society for Microbiology, New Orleans, LA, 23–27 May 2004. (Abstract available via www.asm.org/Media/index.asp?bid=27377).