Objective: Laboratory investigations were initiated with a povidone-iodine antiseptic solution that was intrinsically contaminated with Pseudomonas cepacia. These investigations were helpful in understanding the microbicidal and chemical properties of iodophor solutions and the mechanism by which P cepacia can survive in iodine-containing antiseptics.
Design: Included in these studies were: prolonged survival of P cepacia; available and free iodine determinations; microbial challenge studies; and scanning electron microscopic examination of contaminated antiseptic.
Results: P cepacia survived in this iodophor antiseptic up to 68 weeks from the date of manufacture. A uniform concentration of 1% available iodine was found in all lots of povidone-iodine tested as specified on the product label, but free iodine (I2) values varied greatly. Low free iodine levels of 0.23 to 0.46 ppm were associated with the contaminated lot of povidone-iodine. Solutions of povidone-iodine with varying levels of free iodine were rapidly microbicidal when challenged with cells of P cepacia derived from culture broth and washed or adapted to growth in water. P cepacia cells taken directly from contaminated povidone-iodine survived for significantly longer periods of time. Large numbers of P cepacia were found embedded in extracellular material and among strands of glycocalyx between cells as shown by scanning electron microscopy.
Conclusions: The physical thickness of cellular and extracellular material that forms on surfaces could protect embedded organisms from the microbicidal action of disinfectants and antiseptics and subsequently allow for extended microbial survival times. Manufacturers should be aware that distribution piping surfaces colonized with bacteria may be a source of product contamination and resistant organisms.