Sychempedia – The Sterilisation & Decontamination Hub

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Q?

What is an IVC?

A.

IVC is the Acronym given to describe the title of an Individually Ventilated Cage. An IVC is a cage used in laboratory animal husbandry to keep an animal separated from other animals and possible exposures, including exposure to air. There is a huge demand for animals that have been kept in disease-free conditions and housed in barrier units such as Individually Ventilated Cages.

This housing is very important because when animals are used for scientific research, particularly drug-related research, the animals must provide accurate and valid results which means if the animal already has a disease and then undergoes experimentation of a substance that also produces effects on the health of the animals, it could have a detrimental effect on the studies.

The IVC-systems in which the animals are kept in ensures they are fully protected by use of HEPA-filters (High Efficiency-Particulate Air) that defends them from all micro-organisms. A process of sterilisation of all items to be passed into the barrier unit including bedding material, food. This exercise is typically performed to ensure the animals do not come in to contact with any microbes that would be detrimental to the health and well-being of the animals.

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Q?

What does AE(D) mean?

A.

AE(D) is the acronym given to describe the title of an Authorising Engineer in Decontamination. The primary role of an Authorising Engineer in Decontamination is to provide impartial advice and auditing on all aspects of decontamination. This includes cleaning, disinfection, and sterilization, of medical devices and associated instruments and accessories in the acute sector of Healthcare. This role can include advise and input to the design of decontamination facilities, specifications and procurement of decontamination equipment such as sterilizers, washer-disinfectors, Automatic Endoscope Repressors (AER’s), endoscope drying cabinets and for human waste containers and ultrasonic cleaners.

The AED will also carry out auditing of decontamination processes, and decontamination equipment validation and testing reports. In addition to this, the AE(D) might also provide a similar service to Primary Care, Biomedical, Laboratory, Veterinary, Medical Device Manufacturing and Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Sectors.

The Choice Framework for Local Policy and Procedures which is referred to as (CFPP)01-01 Management and Decontamination of surgical instruments (Medical Devices) used in acute care, Part A, defines the typical management structure, key personnel, and relationships relating to decontamination in the healthcare sector. It sets out under sections 5.27 to 5.34 the core duties and responsibilities and necessary qualifications for an AE(D).

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Q?

What methods of Sterilisation are there?

A.

According to the Oxford Dictionary, sterilisation refers to the process of making something free from bacteria or other living microorganisms. Effective sterilisation techniques are essential for maintaining a sterile environment within many industries, such as sterilising medical, laboratory and life science equipment. The 2 most common forms of sterilisation include creating a hot and dry or a hot and wet environment.

  • DRY HEAT (Bake/Flame) Leading to Dry Heat Oxidation of the microorganism
  • WET HEAT (Steam Steriliser Autoclave) Leading to Steam Coagulation of the micro-organisms

However, both these forms of sterilisation can lead to damage of the instrument, especially when dealing with complicated or technologically advanced equipment. Hence, a form of low-temperature sterilisation is required such as creating a Plasma-low temperature Chemical reaction. Plasma sterilises via a process called 'Oxidation'.  A chemical reaction is created in which all microorganisms are deactivated. One type of plasma is called Hydrogen Peroxide. The advantages of using Hydrogen Peroxide are:

  • No chemical residues
  • Safe to handle
  • Environmentally safe
  • Short Aeration time

Ethylene Oxide Chemical reaction

Ethylene Oxide is a toxic gas that leaves no residue on items it contacts. Therefore, ethylene oxide is used as a surface disinfectant in hospitals and the medical equipment industry to replace steam in the sterilisation of heat-sensitive tools and equipment, such as disposable plastic syringes.

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Q?

How can steam sterilisation be achieved?

A.

Steam sterilisation is achieved by the use of process or clean steam. The quality of steam required is dependent on the application the sterilisation is being used for. For example healthcare applications where sterilisation is being used for the processing of surgical instruments will require steam that is compliant with EN285 and the Health Technical Memorandum HTM01.01. Other applications such as the ones found within laboratory and biomedical facilities are not governed by legislative requirements and therefore are subject to the users consideration to the process results required. Without doubt sterilisation conducted with clean steam is considered to be best practice but not always justifiable commercially. In these cases process steam is utilised which is produced through the use of a lower grade of water not RO water.

Steam Quality is ascertained through consideration to:

  • The level of non-condensable gases present
  • Steam Dryness
  • Super Heat

The optimal composition of steam is 3% liquid and 97% gas. Any change in the percentage of moisture increases or decreases sterilisation time. In practice, sterilization time is calculated according to optimum steam conditions and steam’s ability to transfer energy to the non-sterile load prior to sterilization.

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Q?

What is thermal disinfection?

A.

Thermal disinfection is a method of disinfection which relies on moist heat to kill bacteria and viruses by exposure to a specific temperature for a set amount of time. The high temperature Thermal Disinfection process can destroy the proteins in viruses and bacteria and render them as dead or inert. Nosocomial infections such as Norwalk virus, MRSA, and various others effect hundreds of thousands of people globally each and every year.

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Q?

What is the difference between a Bacteria and a Virus?

A.

Although viruses and bacteria are too small to be seen without a microscope they are as different as elephants and fish. Bacteria are single-celled, relatively complex creatures with a rigid wall and a thin, rubbery membrane surrounding fluid which is inside the cell. Bacteria can reproduce on their own and fewer than 1% of bacteria cause diseases in people. Bacteria can survive in different environments, including extreme heat and cold, radioactive waste, and the human body.

Viruses on the other hand are tiny: the largest virus is smaller than the smallest bacteria. All they feature is a protein coat and a core of genetic material, either DNA or RNA. They can only reproduce by attaching themselves to cells. In most cases, they reprogram the cells to make new viruses until the cells pop and die. Unlike bacteria, viruses can't survive without a host.  In other cases, they turn normal cells into malignant or cancerous cells.

In summary to the key differences a virus is smaller than a bacteria and requires a host in order to survive whereas a bacteria can survive in many different environments. Bacteria can also be considered to be friendly to humans. Also unlike bacteria, most viruses do cause disease.

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Q?

What is the difference between cleaning, disinfection, sterilisation and decontamination?

A.

Would you be able to identify the differences between cleaning, disinfection, sterilisation and decontamination? Although similar, there are clear differences when working with infection control.

What follows are the definitions of each.

Cleaning & Disinfection: A process that removes dirt, dust, large numbers of microorganisms and the organic matter, killing most, but not all viable organisms

Sterilisation: This is a process of removing or killing all viable organisms including spores. Dead microorganisms and toxins (pyrogens) may remain.

DecontaminationA process that destroys or removes all microbial contamination to render an item or the environment completely safe

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