Baths with 2% alkaline glutaraldehyde are often reused for 14 days to decontaminate flexible fiberoptic endoscopes (FFEs) between patients, but the effect of such reuse on the disinfectant's activity has not been known. Many busy endoscopy units also disinfect FFEs with contact times shorter than those recommended by the disinfectant manufacturer. We therefore collected samples of the disinfectant over the 14-day reuse period from two manual and one automatic bath used for bronchoscopes and gastroscopes at a local hospital. Control samples were also collected from a manual bath of 2% alkaline glutaraldehyde which did not receive any endoscopes. The germicidal activities of the samples were assessed in a carrier test against a mixture of hepatitis A virus, poliovirus 1 (Sabin), and Pseudomonas aeruginosa; the mixture also contained either Mycobacterium bovis or Mycobacterium gordonae. Bovine serum (5%) was the organic load. The criterion of efficacy was a minimum of a 3-log10-unit reduction in the infectivity titers of the organisms tested. The initial disinfectant concentration in all the baths was nearly 2.25%; it became about 1.8% in the control bath and fell to approximately 1% in the three test baths after 14 days. No protein was detected in the control bath, while its concentration rose gradually in the test baths to a maximum of 1,267 micrograms/ml after 14 days. With a contact time of 10 min at 20 +/- 2 degrees C, all the samples from the control bath were effective against all the test organisms and all the samples from all the test baths were also effective against P. aeruginosa. With a contact time of 10 or 20 min at 20+/-2 degrees C, the virucidal and mycobactericidal activities of the samples from the test baths showed broad-spectrum germicidal activity when the contact time was increased to 45 min and the temperature was raised to 25 degrees C. These findings emphasize the care needed in the disinfection of FFEs, especially in view of the increasing threat of AIDS and the resurgence of tuberculosis
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