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J Hosp Infect. 2001 Feb;47(2):138-42.

The effect of system design on bacterial contamination of enteral tube feeds.

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Department of Nutrition and Dietetics, Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, Foresterhill, Aberdeen, AB25 2ZU, UK.


The effect of recent changes in system design on the levels and incidence of bacterial contamination in enteral tube feeds was examined by comparing two different systems. Adult patients who had been identified as requiring enteral tube feeding were allocated to receive sterile, whole protein enteral feed from either 2 x 1000 mL triple foil laminated pouches (Nutrison Standard, Nutrison Pack, Nutricia Ltd, UK) attached to a Flocare 800 pack giving set or from 2 x 1000 mL rigid plastic bottles (Osmolite, Ross Ready-to-Hang, Abbott Laboratories, UK) connected to a Patrol Pump set. Samples of feed from the nutrient containers were sent for microbiological analysis each time the container was changed (12 and 24 h) and samples from the distal ends of giving sets after 24 h.Bacterial contamination was found in a significantly lower number of Nutrison Packs (14/120; 12%) as compared with Ross Ready-to-Hang containers (25/120; 21%) (Fisher's exact test, 1 tailed test, P > or = 0.05). However, both the level and frequency of contamination of the feed samples collected from the distal ends of the giving sets of both types of system were similar to each other but higher than those from the nutrient containers (57/120 contaminated giving sets as compared with 39/240 nutrient containers; P > or = 0.00001). On 32/120 patient days only the giving set samples were contaminated. The results highlight the important role that improvements in system design, such as the use of recessed spikes on giving sets have in reducing the risk of bacterial contamination of enteral tube feeds introduced due to faulty handling procedures, and further implicate retrograde spread of the patients' own flora as a source of contamination in the giving set.

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