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J Clin Microbiol. 2006 Oct;44(10):3728-33. Epub 2006 Aug 23.

Comparative study of surgical instruments from sterile-service departments for presence of residual gram-negative endotoxin and proteinaceous deposits.

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  • 1Environmental Healthcare Unit, School of Biological Sciences, University of Southampton, Southampton SO16 7PX, United Kingdom.


The ineffective cleaning of surgical instruments may be a vector for the transmission of hospital-acquired infections. The aim of this research was to investigate whether further decontamination procedures need to be instigated in sterile-service departments (SSDs) to reduce the risk of nosocomial illnesses, such as endotoxemia, sepsis, or iatrogenic Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (to date, 1,147 cases of confirmed Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease deaths in the United Kingdom since 1990 have been reported). Instrument sets were obtained from nine anonymous United Kingdom National Health Service (NHS) primary care trust SSDs. The investigation implemented an advanced light microscopy technique, episcopic differential interference contrast microscopy with the sensitive fluorescent reagents SYPRO Ruby and 4',6-diamidino-2-phenylindole dihydrochloride (DAPI), to detect proteinaceous and microbial contamination levels. Gram-negative lipopolysaccharide (LPS) endotoxin was monitored using a dansylated polymyxin B fluorochrome agent. None of the 260 instruments examined displayed signs of microbial colonization or LPS endotoxin contamination. However, over 60 percent of the instruments showed a high degree of protein soiling (0.4 to 4.2 mug protein/mm(2)). Some instruments appeared soiled with crystalline deposits that may consist of a potentially hazardous material contributing to inflammation and/or surgical shock. It is clear that the overall standard for cleaning must be raised in order to fulfill the imminent introduction of new European standards and to reduce the risk of cross-patient contamination and iatrogenic transmission.

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