As the coronavirus pandemic continues to spread, researchers have flagged a new potential threat: patients and healthcare staff may be at risk of infection from contaminated bronchoscopes. According to research published in Infection Control & Hospital Epidemiology, scientists warned that bronchoscopes, which are also used to obtain samples and wash out patients’ lungs, could spread other microbes that may cause secondary infections.
“It is possible that contaminated bronchoscopes could infect COVID-19 patients with other infectious diseases,” said Cori L. Ofstead, MSPH, one of the authors. “It’s also possible that contaminated devices could expose healthcare workers to the virus when they are cleaning and disinfecting them between patients. Given what we’ve learned about the overall level of bronchoscope contamination, we urgently need to know whether healthcare personnel are getting exposed to the virus or other pathogens on bronchoscopes due to the lack of PPE and other supplies.”
The authors noted that sterile, disposable bronchoscopes would “substantially reduce the risks” to patients and hospital staff, and also point out that disposable devices are recommended by the American Association for Bronchology and Interventional Pulmonology. In addition, many tests for COVID-19 result in false negatives, while a bronchoscopy is the most accurate way to confirm that a patient has the virus, Ofstead states.
Ofstead and her colleagues, however, report that single-use bronchoscopes are not available everywhere, and also may not be effective for some bronchoscopy uses.
Currently, most bronchoscopes are reusable, and are cleaned and disinfected after each procedure. Ofstead and her colleagues argue that cleaning and disinfection are difficult to do properly and are often done incorrectly even under normal circumstances.
“No patient should suffer from preventable nosocomial infections due to bronchoscopy,” Ofstead said. “Using bronchoscopes that have physical defects and harbor viruses, bacteria, or fungi puts vulnerable patients at risk and could have adverse effects on public health. Institutions are obligated to protect both patients and reprocessing personnel and ensure bronchoscope reprocessing practices adhere to guidelines and manufacturer instructions.”
The authors acknowledge that reprocessing effectiveness has not been evaluated in epidemic settings and research is needed to confirm that COVID-19, influenza viruses, and other pathogens are eliminated in these settings.
“This study adds to the mounting evidence that single-use bronchoscopes would be a better option for protecting patients and hospital staff from infection,” said Juan Jose Gonzalez, CEO of Ambu Inc.
Source: Ambu Inc