Hospital bacteria outbreak linked to nasal spray

July 21, 2011

Infection control researchers investigating a rare bacterial outbreak of Burholderia cepacia complex (Bcc) identified contaminated nasal spray as the root cause of the infections, leading to a national recall of the product. An article in the August issue of Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology, the journal of the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America (SHEA), describes how researchers were able to trace the outbreak back to the nasal decongestant spray.

Bcc is a group of Gram-negative bacteria that can cause hard-to-treat infections. Patients with underlying medical conditions such as and weakened immune systems are at greater risk of contracting Bcc. When patients in a Denver children's hospital began testing positive for the bacteria in 2003, investigators suspected that a batch of Major Twice-a-Day , a brand that each of the patients had used, might be to blame. However, standard tests of the spray did not find any bacteria initially.

Noticing some peculiarities in the initial tests, the investigators decided to retest the spray using a non-standard culture medium. The second set of tests was positive for Bcc, the same strain as was identified in patients. The nasal spray contained a preservative agent that can interfere with standard and the second set of tests neutralized the preservative, allowing the detection of the bacteria.

The spray was voluntarily recalled by the manufacturer, but the findings raise lingering questions about how manufacturers should test nasal spray products before distribution. "If standard culturing methods were used by the manufacturer then they may not have [discovered] this organism," the researchers write.

"Nasal spray products are among the most widely used over-the-counter pharmaceuticals, but to date they are not required by the FDA to be sterile," said Susan Dolan, one of the article's authors. "Given the implications of Bcc infections we question this decision."

Other products, such as mouthwash, nebulization therapy, tap water, disinfectants, and reusable temperature probes have previously been implicated as Bcc outbreak sources.

Explore further: Saline nasal wash helps improve children's cold symptoms

More information: Susan A. Dolan, Elaine Dowell, John LiPuma, Sondra Valdez, Kenny Chan, and John F. James, "An Outbreak of Burkholderia cepacia Complex Associated with Intrinsically Contaminated Nasal Spray." Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology 32:8 (August 2011).

Related Stories

Saline nasal wash helps improve children's cold symptoms

January 21, 2008

A saline nasal wash solution made from processed seawater appears to improve nasal symptoms and may help prevent the recurrence of respiratory infections when used by children with the common cold, according to a report in ...

Study: Flu shot better than nasal spray in adults

September 23, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- A flu shot is 50 percent more effective than nasal spray vaccine in preventing seasonal influenza in healthy adults, a new University of Michigan study shows.

Bacterial spray can help children with glue ear

March 29, 2010

Many children have long-term problems with fluid in the middle ear, and sometimes surgery is the only way to shift it. However, a bacterial nasal spray can have the same effect in some children, reveals a thesis from the ...

Recommended for you

Immune breakthrough: Unscratching poison ivy's rash

August 23, 2016

We all know that a brush with poison ivy leaves us with an itchy painful rash. Now, Monash University and Harvard researchers have discovered the molecular cause of this irritation. The finding brings us a step closer to ...

Zika infection may affect adult brain cells

August 18, 2016

Concerns over the Zika virus have focused on pregnant women due to mounting evidence that it causes brain abnormalities in developing fetuses. However, new research in mice from scientists at The Rockefeller University and ...

Monkeys with Sudan ebolavirus treated successfully

August 22, 2016

Scientists funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) have successfully treated monkeys several days after the animals were infected with Sudan ebolavirus (SUDV). The study is important, according to the researchers, ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.