What was once considered a common and unremarkable ingredient — gas relief drops designed for infants — is undergoing new scrutiny for its likelihood to contaminate medical scopes. An initial study by Minnesota researchers suggests such contamination may be putting patients at greater risk for infections.
The study began when researchers noticed a cloudy white fluid inside several medical scopes. These were scopes thought to have been thoroughly disinfected and readied for next use. Surprised that the fluid hadn’t been removed, researchers initiated a small but intense study. Their subsequent analysis found simethicone, the primary ingredient in anti-gas medications, lurking in the fluid. Doctors commonly use this ingredient during colonoscopies and other procedures in order to reduce internal bubbles that would otherwise impede internal visibility.
However, researchers’ findings suggest that such use may encourage bacteria to grow inside the medical scopes used during the procedure. These drops may also hinder staff’s ability to remove such bacteria. The authors of the study recommend health care facilities minimize their use of simethicone-based products until further research into the area can be made. And before such medical errors cause a rampant infection crisis similar to that of the duodenoscopic crisis. In this crisis, as many as 350 patients across 41 medical facilities became infected or exposed to a “super bug” due to preventable medical errors involving contaminated duodenoscopes.
The liquid drops also regularly include silicone. Silicone does not dissolve in water and cannot be removed with standard disinfectants or detergents. The study’s authors believe this ingredient may create an impenetrable coating to the tissue, blood, and other organic material caught on medical devices during internal procedures. It may also encourage the growth of biofilm. Biofilm is a slimy material that creates a barrier layer to further protect bacteria and other microbes from being sanitized and removed with cleaning.
Thus far, no infections or “super bugs” have been linked to the gas relief drops. The research findings only suggest these ingredients heighten the unnecessary risks of contamination.
The American Society of Gastrointestinal Endoscopy, a group representing the primary physicians implementing the procedures where such drops might be used, has confirmed that while these anti-gas drops have not been approved by the FDA for use with medical scopes, doctors are permitted to use in their discretion such medications and medical devices in non-specified or off-label ways that have not been expressly approved or denied by the FDA.
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Information source: NPR, 25 Aug 2016