Research – A microbiological study to investigate the carriage and transmission-potential of Clostridium difficile spores on single-use and reusable sharps containers

American Journal of Infectious Control Clostridium_difficile_01


A 2015 study matching use of disposable and reusable sharps containers (DSCs, RSCs) with Clostridium difficile infection (CDI) incidence found a decreased incidence with DSCs. We conducted microbiologic samplings and examined the literature and disease-transmission principles to evaluate the scientific feasibility of such an association.


(i) 197 RSCs were sampled for C. difficile at processing facilities; (ii) RSCs were challenged with high C. difficile densities to evaluate efficacy of automated decontamination; and (iii) 50 RSCs and 50 DSCs were sampled in CDI patient rooms in 7 hospitals. Results were coupled with epidemiologic studies, clinical requirements, and chain-of-infection principles, and tests of evidence of disease transmission were applied.


C. difficile spores were found on 9 of 197 (4.6%) RSCs prior to processing. Processing completely removed C. difficile. In CDI patient rooms, 4 of 50 RSCs (8.0%) and 8 of 50 DSCs (16.0%) had sub-infective counts of C. difficile (P = .27). DSCs were in permanent wall cabinets; RSCs were removed and decontaminated frequently.


With C. difficile bioburden being sub-infective on both DSCs and RSCs, sharps containers being no-touch, and glove removal required after sharps disposal, we found 2 links in the chain of infection to be broken and 5 of 7 tests of evidence to be unmet. We conclude that sharps containers pose no risk of C. difficile transmission.

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