PURPOSE: Healthcare-associated infection (HAI) is a well-known problem in human medicine. The contamination of medical devices with pathogenic organisms is less studied in veterinary medicine. The purpose of this multicenter study was to evaluate the bacterial contamination of slit lamps throughout Europe and part of the United States. The efficacy of standard cleaning was additionally investigated.
METHODS: Samples from adjustment wheels of slit lamps were taken by different veterinary ophthalmologists and submitted for culture (n = 29). The efficacy of cleaning protocols was evaluated by taking a second sample after routine cleaning (n = 29). Sensitivity testing was performed for pathogenic bacteria using the minimum inhibitory concentration (MIC) or disc diffusion (Kirby-Bauer) method. Statistical analysis was performed using Fisher's exact test.
RESULTS: Seventeen of 29 slit lamps were contaminated before cleaning. The most frequently cultured bacteria were Staphylococcus spp. and coliform bacteria. Twelve of 29 slit lamps showed no bacterial growth before and after cleaning. There was a significant difference before and after cleaning (P = 0.0008), with only 4/29 contaminated samples after cleaning.
CONCLUSION: Contamination with pathogenic bacterial species is frequent in slit lamps used by veterinary ophthalmologists. A risk of cross-contamination in clinical patients has to be considered. Routine cleaning reduces bacterial contamination significantly.