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Clin Microbiol Infect. 2004 Apr;10(4):322-6.

Testing for viral penetration of non-latex surgical and examination gloves: a comparison of three methods.

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University of Maryland School of Nursing, Department of Adult Health Nursing, 655 West Lombard St., Baltimore, MD 21201, USA.


Currently, there are no international standards based on microbiological methodology for testing the ability of medical examination or surgical gloves to prevent the passage of viruses. Three protocols for the direct examination of the viral barrier properties of non-latex gloves were compared with 1080 gloves (270 gloves from each of two surgical brands and two medical examination brands). In two of the methods, gloves were filled with and suspended in a nutrient broth solution, and bacteriophage phiX174 was placed either inside or outside the glove, while the entire test vessel was agitated. Gloves tested using the third method were filled with a suspension of bacteriophage and allowed to rest in a vessel containing nutrient broth. Gloves were tested directly from the manufacturer's packaging, or after being punctured intentionally or subjected to a stress protocol. The passage of bacteriophage was detected with plaque assays. Significant differences in failure rates between glove brands were apparent only among gloves that had been subjected to the stress protocol. Overall, the two methods in which bacteriophage were placed inside the gloves provided more sensitivity than the method in which bacteriophage was spiked into broth outside the gloves. Thus the placement of bacteriophage inside test gloves (or the use of pressure across the glove barrier during testing), and the use of a standardised stress protocol, will improve significantly the ability of a glove test protocol to determine the relative quality of the barrier offered by medical examination and surgical gloves. Further research is needed to provide test methods that can incorporate reproducibly both the use of bacteriophage and simulated glove use in an industrial quality control setting.

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