Background: Endocavity ultrasound is seen as a harmless procedure and has become a common gynaecological procedure. However without correct disinfection, it may result in nosocomial transmission of genito-urinary pathogens, such as high-risk Human Papillomavirus (HR-HPV). We aimed to evaluate the currently recommended disinfection procedure for covered endocavity ultrasound probes, which consists of "Low Level Disinfection" (LLD) with "quaternary ammonium compounds" containing wipes.
Methods: From May to October 2011 swabs were taken from endovaginal ultrasound probes at the Gynecology Department of the Lyon University Hospital. During the first phase (May-June 2011) samples were taken after the ultrasound examination and after the LLD procedure. In a second phase (July-October 2011) swab samples were collected just before the probe was used. All samples were tested for the presence of human DNA (as a marker for a possible transmission of infectious pathogens from the genital tract) and HPV DNA with the Genomica DNA microarray (35 different HPV genotypes).
Results: We collected 217 samples before and 200 samples after the ultrasound examination. The PCR was inhibited in two cases. Human DNA was detected in 36 (18%) post-examination samples and 61 (28%) pre-examination samples. After the ultrasound LLD procedure, 6 (3.0%) samples contained HR-HPV types (16, 31, 2×53 and 58). Similarly, HPV was detected in 6 pre-examination samples (2.7%). Amongst these 4 (1.9%) contained HR-HPV (types 53 and 70).
Conclusion: Our study reveals that a considerable number of ultrasound probes are contaminated with human and HR-HPV DNA, despite LLD disinfection and probe cover. In all hospitals, where LLD is performed, the endovaginal ultrasound procedure must therefore be considered a source for nosocomial HR-HPV infections. We recommend the stringent use of high-level disinfectants, such as glutaraldehyde or hydrogen peroxide solutions.