Study Reveals Up To One-Third Of Endoscopes Carry Bacteria

A recent study conducted by biotech company OneLife showed that between 10% and 30% of endoscopes in use at Belgian hospitals are contaminated by bacteria. This is the result even though the endoscopes in question were tested after going through the high-level disinfection process.

Due to the complex nature of endoscopes, they are high-level disinfected or sterilized in order to prepare the instruments for the next procedure. While these processes are designed to remove any dangerous bacteria from the scopes, in practice this isn’t always the case. As this article by Alan Hope at The Brussels Times states:

“Precisely because of the danger of cross-contamination in the multiple uses of an endoscope, the devices are routinely disinfected by the hospital. But OneLife found that even carefully disinfecting the device according to approved procedure was no guarantee of removing bacteria completely.

According to estimates, about 5% of patients contract an infection as a result of a stay in hospital, and research has shown that endoscopes are a common vector for cross-contamination. “More outbreaks are linked to contaminated endoscopes than to any other medical device, the study concludes.

The reason is, OneLife argues, that endoscopes are disinfected but not sterilised, and the established procedure does not remove biofilms – collections of cells which grow on surfaces and also to each other, making their removal more difficult without radical measures to ensure removal. To make matters worse, the endoscope is a complex construction consisting of a camera and a flexible tube to direct the camera to its target, and as such offers up a multitude of hiding places for biofilms.

Without cleaning to remove the biofilms, disinfecting has no purpose, OneLife says. “It is impossible to disinfect an inadequately cleaned instrument. Any disinfection process is doomed to fail if cleaning is inadequate.”

Read the entire article here: Up to one in three endoscopes in hospitals contaminated by bacteria

Evidence continues to accumulate about the dangers that poorly disinfected endoscopes pose to patients. Hospitals must ensure that they’re doing everything they can to protect themselves and their patients from harm. The article points out that a major risk factor of using endoscopes stems from issues with cleaning and disinfecting scopes. Make sure that your staff is following the proper processes and protocols each and every time an endoscope is reprocessed. Systems such as iRIScope can display the proper workflow for reprocessing endoscopes and document the process electronically. Any breaches of protocol can be discovered in real-time to protect patients and identify which staff members need additional training on reprocessing techniques. You owe it to your staff and your patients to offer everyone the peace of mind that flexible endoscopes are being properly reprocessed every single time.