Keeping the bugs out

A look at gas sterilization


This HND piece uses the COVID-19 crisis as a springboard to focus on gas sterilization—a method of low-temperature sterilization for those medical devices that can't take the heat of steam. Along the way, we get into some cool scientific principles such as the definition of a plasma, and the difference between a vapor and a gas.

Then we spotlight the sterilization method of vaporized hydrogen peroxide, which is now being used to process respirators for re-use.

Read the complete article.

A look at chronic sinusitis


This HND piece focuses on the nasty matter of chronic sinusitis, a condition that affects millions of people, with a host of unpleasant symptoms. Standard treatment is a long course of antibiotics, but this doesn't always work, and can bring on side effects, as well.

It has been known for some time that this affliction is often caused by a bacterial imbalance in nasal membranes, whereby the chronic condition features different bugs from simple sinusitis. Thus, the idea of topical probiotics has been mentioned for the past few years. Indeed, such therapy has worked for ear infections and tonsillitis. We highlight a new product that is a special probiotic nasal spray, that seems to be getting good consumer reviews.

Read the complete article.

The angels weep over L.A.'s public health crisis

This HND piece focuses on the rapidly deteriorating situation around the many homeless encampments in Los Angeles. It was easy enough for officials to cover things up until cases of typhus and typhoid have crept into the non-homeless population. And then there is the rat infestation of the City Hall complex, along with the fleas that come along for the ride.

As if that weren't bad enough, serious folks are predicting an outbreak of bubonic plague this summer. No, these aren't third world conditions, these are more like medieval conditions—so says LA-based Dr. Drew Pinsky.

There's really no choice now, but to get these homeless off the streets, and set up some sort of workfare for those who can; rehab the many addicts; and provide care for the mentally ill. Failing that, we'll be reading about bubonic plague in Beverly Hills and Bel-Air.

Read the complete article.

A look at Candida auris


This week's HND piece gives a good introduction into the growing problem with the superbug yeast Candida auris. As with most superbugs, this one is especially damaging to those already sick and in a healthcare facility.

Sadly, as also is the case with most superbugs, there is a serious cover-up going on as to exactly where, and how prevalent these infections really are.

Read the complete article.

Bloodstream Infections and a promising new weapon against them

This HND piece examines the problem of bloodstream infections—especially those affecting pediatric leukemia patients. Generally regarded as the most dangerous type of healthcare-associated infection, bloodstream infections are far too common, and have a disturbingly high fatality rate.

Pediatric leukemia patients, already immunocompromised by virtue of chemotherapy and their youth in many cases, are unfortunately prone to serious bloodstream infections. If only these could be diagnosed earlier.

We report on a pilot study that shows the efficacy of a new diagnostic approach, using next-generation DNA sequencing. The test can identify the DNA of more than 1000 pathogens, long before their infections would become symptomatic. Prophylactic antibiotics can then be administered, and this can save lives. Great stuff.

Read the complete article.

Sanitation in the food industry with peracetic acid

This HND article takes up where we left off, around five years ago. In this offering, we get into the chemistry and mechanism of how PAA kills those microbes, along with the many advantages of this germicide.

After that, we segue into safety and regulatory issues, and conclude with a look at available monitoring systems for this compound.

Read the complete article.

Should endoscopes be sterilized or not?

This HND piece explores the long-running argument over how endoscopes should be processed before their next use. High-level disinfection is favored by the endoscopes users, since it is cheaper and faster, but more and more evidence is suggesting that they'd better be sterilized.

We quote documents from both sides, including a new study from Johns Hopkins indicating that actual infection rates are up to 100 times higher than previously thought.

Read the complete article.

Living with the bugs

This HND piece examines two common pathogenic agents: Flu viruses and E. Coli.  Both subjects are timely, given that this current flu season is shaping up to be a bad one, and that there was a recent outbreak of E. Coli, supposedly spread by leafy vegetables.

As it happens, one accurate way to determine if you really have the flu is the presence of a cough and fever.  Also, there is no such thing as "stomach flu." Those intestinal upsets are caused by a non-influenza virus.

Regarding E. coli, we go into its history, and then discuss the nasty O157:H7 strain, that is flat-out deadly.

Read the complete article.

High level disinfection might not be good enough for endoscopes

The worm, as they say, has turned. This HND piece describes how even a stodgy NGO has to face reality, sooner or later. The Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation (AAMI), in a fairly blistering press release, has finally acknowledged that sterilization might be the only safe answer for processing endoscopes.

Although this has been suspected for years, in the wake of story after story of infection control issues and even deaths, an AAMI-led stakeholders meeting confirmed this, in pretty gory detail. Let's just say that everyone's worst fears were probably exceeded.

Read the complete article.

Have mercy...on those infected with MRSA

This HND piece covers yet another outbreak of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus aka MRSA. What makes this one plain awful is that it occurred in a neonatal intensive care unit, and would not have even been reported publicly, but for "leak" from a hospital employee to a state official.

You'll love the excuse they used when confronted by the media. My friend, infection control guru Lawrence Muscarella, weighs in on this, and while polite, he minces no words.

Read the complete article.