Sterilization of Medical Devices

Flexible endoscope sterilized to ANSI standards
Flexible endoscope

Sterilization of medical devices, pharmaceuticals and other medical products is critical to patient safety. Methods of sterilization involve steam, bleach, ethylene oxide, radiation among others. There are standards related to the procedures to sterilize and to estimate the population of viable microorganisms on a product and to assess the sterility of a medical device such as an endoscope.

According to an article in The Independent, a recent study published in Nature determined “eight adults, aged between 36 and 51, all died of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) after receiving contaminated hormone injections as children. But autopsies on their brains also revealed that seven of them harboured the misfolded proteins associated with the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. It is unheard of for people in this age group to have such proteins.”

“The study, published in the journal Nature, eliminated other possible reasons for the presence of these so-called amyloid-beta (A-beta) proteins and came to the conclusion that they were most probably transmitted as protein “seeds” in the growth-hormone injections.

Questions remain about whether these protein seeds could also be transmitted on surgical instruments used in other operations. It is well-established that the prion proteins behind CJD and Alzheimer’s stick to metal surfaces and can survive extreme sterilization procedures such as steam cleaning and formaldehyde.”

Prions are a form of protein that can fold and transfer its structure to other prion proteins. In this way prions act as pathogens.

A Washington Post article explains, a population in Papua New Guinea, the Fore,” have developed a genetic resistance to the molecule that causes several fatal brain diseases, including kuru, mad cow disease and some cases of dementia.

The single, protective gene is identified in a study published Wednesday in the journal Nature. Researchers say the finding is a huge step toward understanding these diseases and other degenerative brain problems, including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.”

Further reading:
A naturally occurring variant of the human prion protein completely prevents prion disease
Fatal rare brain disease confirmed in N.H. patient; 15 possibly exposed
Mad cows, cannibalism and the shaking death

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