Listeria – The Risks Involved

Listeria - The Risks Involved | Harmony Supply Blog

Listeria is a type of bacteria that causes listeriosis, a serious illness with a fatality rate of 20%. Most cases involve hospitalization. Children, elderly, and adults with weakened immune systems are most susceptible. Healthy adults may avoid listeriosis, but are still susceptible to gastroenteritis. Vomiting, abdominal pain, and diarrhea are the most common symptoms. If the bacteria spreads beyond the gut, a fever may arise. Some doctors may mistakenly diagnose patients with “stomach flu,” although listeria is not related to influenza. A bacterial culture verifies listeriosis.

Listeria Risks

Listeria is common in the food services industry. It is impossible to prevent this bacteria from entering your setting. It survives extreme cold, acidic, and oxygen deprived environments. Refrigeration and freezing do not prevent listeria growth. In fact, listeria continues to grow in the cold. Because of its durability, the only way to prevent listeria contamination is through proper training and procedures. Cleaning and sanitizing equipment is not enough. Listeria can survive in HVAC systems, floors, crevices, or hard to reach places. Without sufficient procedures, your company may be liable for any lapses that cause a listeria outbreak. Fines, fees, and litigation will increase costs on top of product recalls and reputation damage.

Cleaning and Sanitizing to Prevent Listeria

Safety is the first priority for the food industry. Cleaning and Sanitizing (C&S) are the key components to fulfill your responsibility. Cleaning involves removing all surface level contaminants such as food, oil, and dirt. Bacteria cling to these contaminants and block chemicals from reaching the surface. All work surfaces require cleaning including walls, drains, and floors.

All machinery should be broken down into its base components in order to properly sanitize each element. Bacteria festers in hard to reach places. Once a significant amount of bacteria congregate in one area, it forms a biofilm that can prevent proper sanitization.

Biofilms

It is common for drains to contain biofilms. Because they are overlooked and cleaned less often, it can be ground zero for a listeria outbreak in your facility. If a drain contains a biofilm, then cleaning and sanitizing will not be sufficient. The bacteria will spread onto the floor through the drain onto employee boots and clothes. If a pressurized washer is used to clean drains, then the blast will spread listeria through the air onto equipment. If drains flood, production should be ceased immediately. Slot drain systems prevent bacteria from festering. Otherwise, frequent cleaning is the best way to prevent biofilms and listeria.

Detergents

Solvents, detergents, acids, and abrasive cleaners are the most common cleaners used.

Detergents are useful for lifting most soil from the surface. For grease, solvent cleaners can be used even when grease has burned onto the surface. Acid cleaners are used on mineral deposits such as hard water. Abrasive cleaners remove significant soil accumulations, generally in small areas. Because of its abrasive qualities, its use should be limited to surfaces unable to be cleaned by a detergent.

Surfaces must be cleaned of all organic material. Bacteria feeds off organic material and prevents proper sanitization.

Cleaners do not remove all microorganisms and bacteria. Sanitizers must be used in conjunction with cleaners.

Sanitizing

Sanitizing proceeds cleaning. It involves applying chemicals or heat to a cleaned surface. Although sanitization does not sterilize an environment, it is sufficient for most settings. Heat is useful because listeria cannot survive past 149 degrees fahrenheit or 60 degrees celsius. Properly cooked food will not contain listeria if it is heated past 149 degrees. Dishwashers reach this temperature and thus too are effective means to sanitize.

Chemicals are used for food-contact surfaces. Chlorine, iodine, and  quaternary ammonium compounds are all approved for food-contact surfaces.

Chlorine

Chlorine is the most common sanitizer. It is effective against bacteria, fungi, and viruses along with all spores. Salmonella, cryptosporidium, and giardia are all resistant to chlorine. In instances involving chlorine resistant microorganisms, quaternary ammonium compounds work effectively. Chlorine is not effective against biofilms and is toxic when inhaled and when in contact with skin. There is a positive residual effect that keeps the surface free of bacteria for a limited time.

Iodine

Iodine is an acid sanitizer. It is effective against bacteria, fungi, viruses, and tuberculosis. Iodine has a slight resistance to listeria, meaning longer exposure times are necessary. To remove a listeria infested biofilm with iodine, soak the film. Because iodine is an acid, be careful when it comes into contact with other sanitizers. Chlorine mixed with an acid produces a deadly, toxic gas. If exposed, immediately remove everyone from the environment. Iodine is also extremely corrosive and causes chemical burns on the skin.

Proper protection is required when cleaning with acids like iodine.

Quaternary

Quaternary ammonium cleaner is effective against vegetative bacteria. Vegetative bacteria is bacteria that is not growing. QA is effective against biofilms and does not require soaking time like iodine. Like chlorine, QA provides residual activity keeping the surface sanitized for a limited time. It works against hard water although QA itself is not corrosive.

Sanitizers

Sanitizers react differently depending on the surface. Plastic, glass, metal, and wood may require different chemicals to properly sanitize. For food environments, this may not be as important. It is critical to understand the microorganisms that thrive in your environment to prepare proper sanitization procedures. For example, if you have a biofilm with listeria, then your iodine sanitizer may not be enough if the film is not soaked for an adequate time. In that case, QA could be used. Send environmental samples to labs in order to sanitize properly.

Sampling For Lab Tests

Listeria is unique in that contaminated foods appear and taste normal. Because of this, environmental monitoring should be a part of every facility procedures, along with a cleaning and sanitizing program. Swab sample collection will keep your facility safe. Samples will identify listeria and other pathogens.

Once you know what pathogens live in your environment, you will be able to use the right sanitizers to protect your customers.

Environmental sampling kits are designed to increase sample count through their large, foam-tipped swabs. In all kits, a swab is secured to the screw-cap in leak-resistant tubes. To test, remove the swab and wipe the sample area while rotating the swab. Return the swab to the tube and secure the cap. Laboratory analysis should be completed within 4 hours. Samples can be refrigerated for up to 24 hours at 35-39 degrees fahrenheit or 2-4 degrees celsius.

To prevent sample sanitizer contamination, sampling swabs come pre-moistened with neutralizing solutions. Neutralizing solutions can interact with microorganisms, potentially harming the pathogens you hope to test. To prevent this, your swab needs to be tailored to your environment. Contact our customer service if you need advice on which swab is best for you.

Transport Media and Specimen Collection

Proper Specimen Collection And Transport Media

Learn All You Need To Know About Specimen Collection and Transport Media in 5 Minutes

Once collected and processed, specimen quality is of prime importance for test results. Using specimens that have not been properly collected, labeled, handled, or stored can have an impact on the value of a test.
Patient care decreases when lab professionals mismanage specimen. Use transport media and swabs for reliable testing results.
Follow procedures and use high-quality equipment to provide satisfactory patient care. Flocked swabs are one example of equipment used during specimen collection and with transport media.
 

Enrichment Media

 
Enrichment media facilitates the growth of a specific organism by providing essential nutrients. Or sometimes contains an inhibitory substance to prevent the growth of normal competitors.

An organism requires nutrition and a special environment to grow. Use Enrichment media when a low amount of potential pathogens are present in a specimen.

More and more, research facilities and labs are using enrichment and transport media to support the process of recovering and detecting pathogens after collection. Companies like Puritan have come up with the solutions in form of liquid-based media offerings such as Lim Broth Transport Medium.

Puritan Lim Broth Transport Medium
Puritan Lim Broth Transport Medium. LIM Broth: Liquid to test for Group B Strep in expectant mothers.

These products play a vital role in cultivating clinical specimen and making things easier for microbiologists, nurses, and other workers associated with healthcare industry.
 

Transport media

 
Transport medium is a balanced, non-nutritive medium that provides a controlled environment to maintain the survival of microorganisms.
All this without causing growth from the time of collection to the processing stage. There are many types of transport media used for different types of specimen collection.
We can generally categorize them on the basis of their physical state and their functions. Transport medium is required for samples that may contain pathogens but could not be processed right after the collection. It may be urethral swabs, stool, nasal and throat swabs.
These systems maximize specimen collection and make it more convenient via easy handling and rapid release.
For example, use UniTranz-RT® for transport of viruses. As well as Chlamydia, Mycoplasma, and Ureaplasma bacteria specimens. Contains antimicrobial agents and incorporates glass beads for efficient vortexing.
Available with a select offering of tipped applicators or as stand-alone vials.
This provides the ideal environment to protect aerobic, anaerobic, and fastidious bacteria viability for transport to the lab. Proven compatible with automated instruments and reliable for molecular transport.

Puritan UniTranz-RT 1ml Filled Vial and 6" Sterile Mini-tip Flock Swab
Puritan UniTranz-RT 1ml Filled Vial and 6″ Sterile Mini-tip Flock Swab

Almost all of these systems come with swabs for simple collection and elution. And conform to the M40-A standard for microbiological transport systems.
 
 

Pre-collection guidelines

 
For microbiology testing, initial collection of samples is of prime importance. Errors occurred at the initial stage cannot be rectified at a later stage.
Following are some useful guidelines that can help complete a satisfactory pre-collection procedure:
 
  • A person performing the test should wash hands before and after specimen collection.
  • Use Appropriate personal protective equipment such as disposable gloves throughout the process.
  • Collect Specimens in sterile medium with tight-fitting lids to prevent spillage and contamination
  • Use Transport medium to preserve microorganisms during transportation.
 
 
Accurate and rapid sensitivity reports can save lives and help provide the quick and right treatment.
Yet, you can only get accurate results when lab operators use the right methods, tools, and enrichment and transport media to collect, transport, and store the specimen.
There are plenty of options when it comes to swabs and other tools for collecting specimens for diagnostic testing.
But, it is important to equip your lab with high-quality and approved media transport swab systems and tools.

What are flocked swabs?

Flocked VS Spun Fiber Swabs
Flocked VS Spun Fiber Swabs

Leading health researchers are of the opinion that flocked swabs are the top innovative, single-use devices that accommodate superior specimen collection and elution processes.
Flocking is a process where multi length-fibers are applied to an adhesive-coated surface to bring about improved sample collection characteristics in the applicator.
When it comes to specimen collection, Flocked swabs offer many applications and advantages.
Health professional use flocked swabs and transport media to detect and recover pathogens.
Flocked swabs have uniform, fine bristles arranged around the applicator tip. This assures ultra-clean tips and reliable performance.
Unlike traditional wound fiber swabs, flocked swabs have no internal core to absorb and trap collected specimens.
Flocked swabs have a velvet-like brush tip and provide superior collection and release characteristics.
Following are some of the characteristics of flocked swabs:

1. Best sampling

Flocked swabs have the ability to collect organisms and rapidly release entire cells.
Flocked swabs an ideal choice for rapid diagnostic tests. Patented Puritan flocked swabs known for premium quality manufacturing and unique design leading to higher sample yields.

2. Rapid elution

It is important to collect and keep a larger amount of specimen to generate refined results.
Flocked swabs designed by Puritan have no inner fabric to absorb the specimen that leads to rapid elution.
They not only bring about better sample yield, but also facilitate a complete release of the sample into liquid media.

3. Improved diagnostic sensitivity

Accurate, rapid culture, and sensitivity reports are critical factors in examining biological elements.
A patient with an infection needs quick and appropriate treatment. Puritan’s patented flocked technology turns each strand of fiber into a fiber-like brush.
Which makes it possible to obtain excellent collection and release of specimen samples.

4. Easy handling

Puritan flocked swabs support easy and effective transport procedures. Pre-molded breakpoints with printed instructions make it easy to break the handle before attaching the cap to the vial.
After sampling, one can replace the top part of the tube cap for trouble-free transport.
 

How Harmony can help

 
Harmony offers viable, dependable, high performing Puritan swabs, applicators, tongue depressors, and other clinical tools.
You’ll find specialized specimen collection and handling applicators including media transport system kits that include collection swabs.
You can call us and get free help if you need more information on our products. We will be happy to assist you.

Guide: Specimen Collection for Diagnostics

Guide: Specimen Collection for Diagnostics

A Complete Guide to Specimen Collection for Diagnostics

Following the right specimen collection procedures is critical. Not only does it protect healthcare professionals, laboratory staff, and the patient, it also ensures accuracy in diagnostic testing. For infectious diseases, it’s important to get specimen collection right on the first try. That’s why having the proper tools is essential.

When it comes to the swabs and vials used for collecting specimens for diagnostic testing, you have a lot of options. While traditional cotton tips may have been the go-to choice of yesteryear, today’s selections boast significant advancements and options tailored to your unique needs.
Indeed, modern-day swabs come with a number of features designed for ease of use. In this post, we’ll share a comprehensive overview of specimen collection kits as well as considerations to help you determine which option is best for your application.

Media Transport Swab Systems

In many healthcare settings, media transport systems are used. These systems can optimize the specimen collection process and make handling and transporting specimens safe and convenient. They are also designed to provide rapid release, and by integrating high-quality swabs into the system, you’ll receive the best level of elution.

UniTranz-RT Transport System: UT-302
Puritan UniTranz-RT ® Transport System: UT-302

One popular choice for transport media is the Puritan UniTranz-RT ®. It can be used to transport any virus, in addition to bacterial specimens such as Chlamydia and Ureaplasma. The universal transport liquid suspends the cells until processed. They can be purchased as vials of transport medium exclusively; or, for utmost convenience, you can also choose different tipped applicators to complete the system.

Puritan Opti-Swab Mini-Tip Swab with Liquid Amies: LA-116
Puritan Opti-Swab Mini-Tip Swab with Liquid Amies: LA-116

For fastidious and both anaerobic and aerobic bacteria, the Opti-Swab ® transport system is an ideal choice. The liquid amies suspends the cells until processed. It protects the viable bacteria specimens during lab transport and employs flocked or rayon swabs for effective specimen collection.

For certain types of microorganisms, enrichment media are needed to create ideal environments. By adding enrichment media, you’ll promote the development of the particular microorganism for which your testing while also limiting the growth of others. Staph organisms, for instance, require the specific liquid transport MRSA, due to its resistance to antimicrobials. Salmonella, on the other hand, can be enriched with selenite broth. LIM broth is used as an enrichment media for Group B Strep in pregnant women.

In comparison to media transport swabs, there are also Dry Transport Swab systems to consider. Dry transport swabs can be used in general-purpose cell collection and transport to the lab, testing, screening, and DNA testing.

Puritan Cell Collection Polyester Swab: 25-806-2PD-TT
Puritan Dry Transport Cell Collection Polyester Swab: 25-806-2PD-TT

As you can see, there are various types of systems available for the collection and transport of specimens, many of which are designed specifically for one type or group of of bacteria or viruses. While it’s helpful to know what you’re testing for in order to determine the best type of collection kit to use, it’s also beneficial to consider the place from which you’re collecting specimens on the patient. We’ll discuss these considerations below.

Considerations By Application

For certain types of specimen collection, proper practices are mandated by the CDC. For instance, to collect upper respiratory tract specimens, it is recommended by the CDC that collectors use flocked swabs to collect specimens from the tonsil and nasal areas. To avoid inactivation of certain viruses or inhibition of molecular assays, it’s recommended that users do not select wooden-shaft swabs for this application, as the wood could compromise the specimens. Additionally, sterile rayon swabs or sterile polyester swabs are recommended.

Once collection of upper respiratory tract specimens has been completed, swabs must be immediately placed into vials with non-antibiotic transport media. There are additional steps outlined by the CDC for the process, including the use of both oropharyngeal and nasopharyngeal swabs. Nasopharyngeal swabs are also used to test for conditions such as whooping cough and certain types of flu.

HydraFlock® Flocked Sterile Swab, Mini Tip with Transport Tube: 25-3316-H-EMB-100-BT
Great as nasopharyngeal swab: HydraFlock® Flocked Sterile Swab, Mini Tip with Transport Tube: 25-3316-H-EMB-100-BT

Of course, the nose and throat aren’t the only sites for specimen collection. For any area of the body, patient sensitivity should be considered to help determine which swab and collection products to use.

For instance, rectal cultures can be obtained to identify types of bacteria indicating gastrointestinal diseases, but because of the levels of sensitivity, the gentlest swabs possible should be used to collect samples from this region. Likewise, specimens from genitalia, orifices, and any other sensitive areas should be collected using swabs that will minimize discomfort. Calcium Alginate Swabs are also a good choice, since any residual trace fiber left will safely dissolve.

Puritan Sterile Calcium Alginate Nasopharyngeal Tip Swab: 25-800-A-50
Puritan Sterile Calcium Alginate Nasopharyngeal Tip Swab: 25-800-A-50

Luckily, there is a vast number of options available for specimen collection and transport to keep patients safe and comfortable while also preserving the integrity of the sample. By weighing the considerations listed here, you can identify the best types of swabs, vials, and complete transport kits to best meet your needs. Harmony Business Supply has an extensive range of products available to choose from, which you can view online. If you’d like additional assistance deciding on the best option for your application, feel free to consult with one of our product specialists.