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World-First Device to Remove Bacterial Biofilm Inside Endoscopes

By HospiMedica International staff writers
Posted on 23 May 2024

Endoscopes, which are long, thin instruments equipped with a light and camera at one end, are essential for internal medical examinations. Despite advancements, cleaning these tools sufficiently remains a significant challenge. Due to the sensitivity of their materials and electronics, endoscopes cannot undergo standard sterilization procedures applied to other medical and laboratory equipment. They require meticulous, lengthy cleaning processes to avoid contamination. However, even with rigorous cleaning efforts, endoscopes can retain bacterial biofilms—dense clusters of bacteria that adhere to surfaces and each other, protected by a slimy layer. These biofilms exhibit increased resistance to both antibiotics and disinfectants, potentially leading to severe infections or even patient deaths despite thorough decontamination efforts. Now, a new device aims to improve the endoscope cleaning process and prevent contamination by automatically removing bacterial biofilm inside which can cause infections.

Aston University (Birmingham, UK) is collaborating with PFE Medical (Staffordshire, UK), a company specializing in medical products, to advance the cleaning of endoscopes. They are exploring whether fiber optic probes equipped with ultraviolet (UV) light can effectively detect biofilms inside endoscopes. This research could lead to the creation of a pioneering device that inspects endoscopes and ensures they are clear of biofilms before use, thereby enhancing patient safety. This initiative builds on a previous successful collaboration between Aston University and PFE Medical, which developed a device called Khamsin that significantly enhanced the endoscope cleaning process and is currently being tested in real-world settings. This new partnership will leverage PFE Medical’s expertise in endoscope functionality along with Aston University's Institute of Photonic Technologies (AIPT), renowned for its leading-edge research in photonics, medical lasers, and bio-sensing technology, to potentially transform endoscope safety and cleanliness in healthcare settings.

Image: Khamsin is the only automated scope cleaner currently on the market that also eliminates human error (Photo courtesy of PFE Medical)
Image: Khamsin is the only automated scope cleaner currently on the market that also eliminates human error (Photo courtesy of PFE Medical)

“Biofilm is a hidden killer, and we have no way to detect it currently without completely taking apart these medical devices,” said Rob Hartley, Managing Director of PFE Medical. “There is rising concern about microbial resistance and to find a way to objectively detect bacteria would be a true innovation that would have impact around the world.”

“It was exciting to go to PFE Medical recently and see Khamsin in action, knowing that this new product came from a project that only finished last year,” said Professor Kate Sugden, Deputy Dean of the School of Engineering & Applied Sciences who will lead the project. “It will be a challenge to match the success of the last project, but I am optimistic that we can draw on the combined talent and facilities once again to make a significant contribution to solving this problem.”

Related Links:
Aston University
PFE Medical 

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