Aseptic peritonitis due to peptidoglycan contamination of pharmacopoeia standard dialysis solution

Lancet. 2005 Feb 12-18;365(9459):588-94. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(05)17908-2.


Background: Manufacturers of parenteral solutions adhere to European and US Pharmacopoeia standards to define safety and sterility. In response to excess cases of aseptic peritonitis in peritoneal dialysis patients using icodextrin-containing dialysate that met all pharmacopoeia standards, a global recall was issued in May, 2002. We aimed to establish the cause of aseptic peritonitis.

Methods: We analysed 186 reports of aseptic peritonitis between September, 2001, and January, 2003. Extensive physical, chemical, and microbiological investigations of recalled dialysate were done. We calculated dose-response curves for peptidoglycan-induced interleukin 6 elaboration in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) from healthy donors and for sterile peritonitis in rats.

Findings: Although its chemical constituents and concentrations of endotoxin were within pharmacopoeia specifications, the dialysis solution elicited an interlukin 6 response in vivo and in vitro. We identified peptidoglycan from thermophilic acidophilic bacteria (Alicyclobacillus acidocaldarius) as the contaminating proinflammatory substance. In the PBMC assay, strong dose-response relations were noted between peptidoglycan concentrations and interleukin 6. In rats injected with peptidoglycan, dose-dependent increases of intraperitoneal neutrophils and pyrogenic cytokines were recorded. We measured a positive relation between peptidoglycan concentrations in recalled dialysate and reports of aseptic peritonitis. After implementation of corrective actions, the rate of peritonitis returned to baseline.

Interpretation: Excess cases of aseptic peritonitis in peritoneal dialysis patients were due to peptidoglycan contamination of dialysate by Alicyclobacillus. This outbreak serves as an example of how contemporary parenteral products with microbial contaminants can be considered safe under current pharmacopoeia tests, but provoke adverse clinical effects.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Ascitic Fluid / chemistry
  • Bacillus* / metabolism
  • Biological Assay
  • Dialysis Solutions / adverse effects*
  • Dialysis Solutions / chemistry
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Drug Contamination*
  • Endotoxins / analysis
  • Glucans / adverse effects*
  • Glucose / adverse effects*
  • Humans
  • Icodextrin
  • Interleukin-6 / analysis
  • Leukocytes, Mononuclear / metabolism
  • Limulus Test
  • Male
  • Peptidoglycan* / metabolism
  • Peptidoglycan* / pharmacology
  • Peritoneal Dialysis / adverse effects*
  • Peritonitis / etiology*
  • Rabbits
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley


  • Dialysis Solutions
  • Endotoxins
  • Glucans
  • Interleukin-6
  • Peptidoglycan
  • Icodextrin
  • Glucose