The role of biofilms in reprocessing medical devices

Am J Infect Control. 2013 May;41(5 Suppl):S77-80. doi: 10.1016/j.ajic.2012.12.008.


Biofilms are communities of microorganisms within extracellular polymeric material attached to surfaces. Within a biofilm, cells have some protection from drying and other stress factors in their environment, including antimicrobial agents. In this article, the challenges to medical device reprocessing posed by biofilms are addressed. Biofilm formation on reusable medical device surfaces is a risk that can be controlled. By ensuring prompt device cleaning and reprocessing either by high-level disinfection or sterilization and proper drying, biofilms will not have a chance to form. Reusable medical devices like flexible endoscopes that are promptly cleaned and disinfected, rinsed and dried pose little risk to patients.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bacterial Physiological Phenomena*
  • Biofilms / drug effects
  • Biofilms / growth & development*
  • Disinfection / methods*
  • Disinfection / standards
  • Endoscopes / microbiology
  • Equipment Contamination / prevention & control*
  • Equipment Reuse / standards*
  • Humans
  • Time Factors