Ten bronchoscopes that had been used on patients with the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome were sampled to determine the nature and extent of microbial contamination. Samples were taken by irrigating the suction biopsy channel with modified viral transport medium and by swabbing the insertion tube. Sampling was repeated after they had been cleaned in detergent and after two minutes' disinfection in 2% alkaline glutaraldehyde. Before being cleaned the seven bronchoscopes tested by polymerase chain reaction were contaminated with the human immunodeficiency virus, though infectivity and antigen assays gave negative results. Other organisms identified were hepatitis B virus (1), commensal bacteria (9), and Pneumocystis carinii (4). Mean bacterial contamination was 2.27 log colony forming organisms per millilitre. Cleaning the bronchoscope before disinfection removed all detectable contaminants with a reduction in bacterial growth of up to 8 log colony forming units/ml.
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