Email updates

Keep up to date with the latest news and content from BMC Infectious Diseases and BioMed Central.

Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Modeling microbial survival in buildup biofilm for complex medical devices

Michelle J Alfa* and Rosemarie Howie

  • * Corresponding author: Michelle J Alfa malfa@sbgh.mb.ca

  • † Equal contributors

Author Affiliations

Department of Medical Microbiology, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, MB R3T 2N2, Canada

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Infectious Diseases 2009, 9:56  doi:10.1186/1471-2334-9-56

Published: 8 May 2009

Abstract

Background

Flexible endoscopes undergo repeated rounds of patient-use and reprocessing. Some evidence indicates that there is an accumulation or build-up of organic material that occurs over time in endoscope channels. This "buildup biofilm" (BBF) develops as a result of cyclical exposure to wet and dry phases during usage and reprocessing. This study investigated whether the BBF matrix represents a greater challenge to disinfectant efficacy and microbial eradication than traditional biofilm (TBF), which forms when a surface is constantly bathed in fluid.

Methods

Using the MBEC (Minimum Biofilm Eradication Concentration) system, a unique modelling approach was developed to evaluate microbial survival in BBF formed by repetitive cycles of drying, disinfectant exposure and re-exposure to the test organism. This model mimics the cumulative effect of the reprocessing protocol on flexible endoscopes. Glutaraldehyde (GLUT) and accelerated hydrogen peroxide (AHP) were evaluated to assess the killing of microbes in TBF and BBF.

Results

The data showed that the combination of an organic matrix and aldehyde disinfection quickly produced a protective BBF that facilitated high levels of organism survival. In cross-linked BBF formed under high nutrient conditions the maximum colony forming units (CFU) reached ~6 Log10 CFU/peg. However, if an oxidizing agent was used for disinfection and if organic levels were kept low, organism survival did not occur. A key finding was that once established, the microbial load of BBF formed by GLUT exposure had a faster rate of accumulation than in TBF. The rate of biofilm survival post high-level disinfection (HLD) determined by the maximum Log10CFU/initial Log10CFU for E. faecalis and P. aeruginosa in BBF was 10 and 8.6 respectively; significantly different compared to a survival rate in TBF of ~2 for each organism. Data from indirect outgrowth testing demonstrated for the first time that there is organism survival in the matrix. Both TBF and BBF had surviving organisms when GLUT was used. For AHP survival was seen less frequently in BBF than in TBF.

Conclusion

This BBF model demonstrated for the first time that survival of a wide range of microorganisms does occur in BBF, with significantly more rapid outgrowth compared to TBF. This is most pronounced when GLUT is used compared to AHP. The data supports the need for meticulous cleaning of reprocessed endoscopes since the presence of organic material and microorganisms prevents effective disinfection when GLUT and AHP are used. However, cross-linking agents like GLUT are not as effective when there is BBF. The data from the MBEC model of BBF suggest that for flexible endoscopes that are repeatedly used and reprocessed, the assurance of effective high-level disinfection may decrease if BBF develops within the channels.