COVID-19: ensuring safety in endoscopy

How can hospitals ensure they protect patients from the potential risks of infection?

Devices such as flexible endoscopes can be used for treatment and management of COVID-19 patients. Although endoscopies remain safe and provide clinicians with a significant diagnostic and therapeutic utility, they may present a potential risk of infection. To prevent such infections, products and processes have been made available to protect patient safety. Professor Didier Lepelletier,  Paul Caesar and Dr. Daniel Vinteler provide an insight.

Professor Lepelletier, Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Nantes, points out that healthcare professionals are at increased risk of infection by COVID-19 from inhalation of airborne droplets, conjunctival contact, and faeces contamination. The virus has been found to live in patient stool and angiotensin-converting enzyme II (ACE2), the receptor used by the virus to enter human cells, is widely expressed in the intestinal tract. Healthcare workers may transmit the infection to their patients as hospital-based epidemics have been reported. The virus seems to be transmitted mainly via small respiratory droplets through sneezing, coughing or when people interact with each other for some time in close proximity.1 The droplets can then be inhaled, or they can land on surfaces that others may come into contact with. Individuals can then become infected when they touch their nose, mouth or eyes. 

The virus can survive on different surfaces such as copper and cardboard for several hours, and plastic and stainless steel for up to a few days.2 However, the amount of viable virus declines over time and may not always be present in sufficient number to cause infection.3,4 

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