Pharmacy 'Robots' Linked to Bacterial Contamination of Drugs

FRIDAY April 6, 2012 -- So-called robotic drug dispensers can be contaminated with dangerous bacteria, a new report says.

During routine screening, staffers at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in North Carolina discovered Bacillus cereus bacteria in drug samples dispensed by a robot used to prepare intravenous medications in a sterile environment.

This potentially harmful type of bacteria is resistant to many commonly used disinfectants, including alcohol. Contamination of intravenous drugs with this bacteria can cause serious problems, including potentially life-threatening bloodstream infections in patients, the study authors said.

In this case, which occurred in 2010, no patients were harmed, the researchers said.

Further investigation traced the contamination to the machine's washing station and its associated tubing. This washing station is not considered a sterile part of the robot and the manufacturer does not specify a formal cleaning and maintenance procedure, the study authors noted.

They suggested that the current cleaning and maintenance recommendations for the robot need to be strengthened.

"To our knowledge, this is the first published report of a pharmacy robot being contaminated with Bacillus with resultant contamination of intravenous drug product," the study authors wrote.

They said their findings highlight the importance of routine screening of medication prepared by robotic dispensers, which are becoming increasingly common in hospitals.

The study appeared in the journal Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology.

More information

For more on Bacillus cereus visit the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Posted: April 2012


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