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Ultrasound Gel and Infections: Researchers Propose Guidelines to Reduce Risk

In December 2011, researchers uncovered an unusual cluster of Pseudomonas aeruginosa in a cardiovascular surgery intensive care unit during routine infection control surveillance. The outbreak was found to have stemmed from bottles of ultrasound transmission gel that were contaminated during the manufacturing process and that were being used for intraoperative transesophageal echocardiography.

These gels contain parabens or methyl benzoate that inhibit, but not kill, the growth of bacteria. However, past studies have demonstrated that ultrasound gels do not have antimicrobial properties and could serve as a medium for bacterial growth. Contaminated gels have been found to be the source of other outbreaks of infection in the last two decades.

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