Hospital-acquired infection attributed to inadequate decontamination of gastrointestinal endoscopes prompted an in use evaluation of recommended procedures. Specimens were obtained from the internal channels of 123 endoscopes before, during and after decontamination by flushing with saline and brushing with a sterile brush, and examined for vegetative bacteria by broth and plate culture. Four endoscopy units were tested; the chemical disinfectants used were: 2% glutaraldehyde in Centres 1 and 2 (automated) and Centre 3 (manual); peracetic acid in Centre 4 (automated). Samples from patients in Centre 1 with known chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV), hepatitis C virus (HCV) and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV-1) infection were also examined for viral nucleic acid by ultracentrifugation, nucleic acid extraction, reverse transcription (for RNA) and polymerase chain reaction (PCR). No persistent vegetative bacteria were found following standard manual cleaning and disinfection for 20 min in 2% glutaraldehyde in Centres 2 and 3 (N = 37). At Centre 1, while plate culture yielded no growth, 34% of samples (10/29) grew vegetative bacteria in broth culture after cleaning and disinfection for 20 min in 2% glutaraldehyde. Investigation revealed an error in manual cleaning; no bacteria were detected in 37 samples taken after this was corrected. At Centre 4, despite the use of peracetic acid as a sterilant, three out of 20 (15%) of post decontamination samples grew bacteria; one contained persistent bacteria. HBV and HCV PCR analysis detected viral nucleic acid in three out of four and four out of six samples from viraemic patients undergoing endoscopy in Centre 1 during the period of improper manual washing. After proper cleaning was instituted, samples from nine out of nine HCV viraemic patients were negative. HIV RNA was detected in five of 14 samples taken from endoscopes after use on HIV positive patients but all post decontamination samples were negative. Detection of bacteria in washes from endoscope channels is a useful warning of a breakdown in decontamination practice. Inadequate brushing of internal channels may result in persistent HCV and HBV viral nucleic acid, the significance of which is not clear. These results reinforce the importance of adequate manual cleaning of endoscopes before chemical disinfection.
- Peracetic acid