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Microbiological surveillance of bronchoscopes and automatic endoscope reprocessors (AERs)/washer disinfectors as a quality control measure is controversial. Experts also are divided on the infection risks associated with bronchoscopic procedures.
We evaluated the impact of routine microbiological surveillance and audits of cleaning/disinfection practices on contamination rates of reprocessed bronchoscopes.
Audits were conducted of reprocessing procedures and microbiological surveillance on all flexible bronchoscopes used from January 2007 to June 2020 at a teaching hospital in France. Contamination rates per year were calculated and analyzed using a Poisson regression model. The risk factors for microbiological contamination were analyzed using a multivariable logistical regression model.
In total, 478 microbiological tests were conducted on 91 different bronchoscopes and 57 on AERs. The rate of bronchoscope contamination significantly decreased between 2007 and 2020, varying from 30.2 to 0% (P < .0001). Multivariate analysis confirmed that retesting after a previous contaminated test was significantly associated with higher risk of bronchoscope contamination (OR, 2.58; P = .015). This finding was explained by the persistence of microorganisms in bronchoscopes despite repeated disinfections. However, the risk of persistent contamination was not associated with the age of the bronchoscope.
Our results confirm that bronchoscopes can remain contaminated despite repeated reprocessing. Routine microbial testing of bronchoscopes for quality assurance and audit of decontamination and disinfection procedures can improve the reprocessing of bronchoscopes and minimize the rate of persistent contamination.