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This SHEA white paper identifies knowledge gaps and challenges in healthcare epidemiology research related to coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) with a focus on core principles of healthcare epidemiology. These gaps, revealed during the worst phases of the COVID-19 pandemic, are described in 10 sections: epidemiology, outbreak investigation, surveillance, isolation precaution practices, personal protective equipment (PPE), environmental contamination and disinfection, drug and supply shortages, antimicrobial stewardship, healthcare personnel (HCP) occupational safety, and return to work policies. Each section highlights three critical healthcare epidemiology research questions with detailed description provided in supplementary materials. This research agenda calls for translational studies from laboratory-based basic science research to well-designed, large-scale studies and health outcomes research. Research gaps and challenges related to nursing homes and social disparities are included. Collaborations across various disciplines, expertise and across diverse geographic locations will be critical.
Endoscope-associated infections are reported despite following proper reprocessing methods. Microbiological testing can confirm the adequacy of endoscope reprocessing. Multiple controversies related to the method and interpretation of microbiological testing cultures have arisen that make their routine performance a complex target.
We conducted a pilot study using disposable bronchoscopes (DBs) to simulate different reprocessing times and soaking times and to compare high-level disinfection versus ethylene oxide sterilization. We also reviewed the time to reprocessing and duration of the procedures.
Bronchoscopes were chosen because an alternative disposable scope is commercially available and because bronchoscopes are more prone to delays in processing. Disposable bronchoscopes were contaminated using a liquid bacterial suspension and were then incubated for 1–4 hours. Standard processing and high-level disinfection were performed on 36 endoscopes. Ethylene oxide sterilization was performed on 21 endoscopes. Endoscope cultures were performed using the standard “brush, flush, brush” technique.
After brushing was performed, a final water-flush culture procedure was the most effective method of detecting bacterial persistence on the disposable scopes. Klebsiella pneumoniae was the most commonly recovered organism after reprocessing. Ethylene oxide sterilization did not result in total elimination of viable bacteria.
Routine endoscopy cultures may be required to assess the adequacy of endoscopic processing.