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Every clinical specimen is potentially infectious, but data regarding risk for contamination of the laboratory environment during routine testing are scarce. We assessed contamination during routine sample analysis in automated clinical chemistry and microbiology laboratories. A fluorescent marker was applied to specimen container exteriors to assess the impact of gross contamination. Nonpathogenic MS2 virus was added to remnant blood, urine, and ESwab matrices as a biomarker of cross-contamination. Samples were processed and analyzed using Roche Cobas 8100 and ISE, c502, e602, and c702 modules (blood) and BD Kiestra total laboratory automation (blood, urine, ESwabs) over 3 experiments. Fluorescence transfer to laboratory surfaces and personnel was visualized using ultraviolet light. Surfaces were swabbed and assessed for MS2 cross-contamination by RT-PCR. Adherence to standard precautions by laboratory staff was assessed by observation. Fluorescence was observed on 49 of 165 (30%) laboratory surfaces and personnel and 21 of 93 (23%) total laboratory automation instruments. Fluorescence transferred most frequently to gloves (31/40), computer accessories (9/18), and specimen loading racks (12/12). None of 123 areas swabbed were positive for MS2. Improper personal protective equipment use occurred at a rate of 0.36 and 0.15 events per staff per hour in the chemistry and microbiology laboratories, respectively. Hand-washing compliance was observed for 61 of 132 (46%) staff members evaluated. Analysis of grossly contaminated specimens on automated chemistry and microbiology equipment elicits a low likelihood of instrument contamination. However, handling contaminated specimen containers can result in contamination of environmental laboratory surfaces, representing a source of risk that is heightened by low adherence to appropriate personal protective equipment. ©American Association for Clinical Chemistry 2020. All rights reserved. For permissions, please email:


Christopher W Farnsworth, Meghan A Wallace, Albert Liu, Ann M Gronowski, Carey-Ann D Burnham, Melanie L Yarbrough. Evaluation of the Risk of Laboratory Microbial Contamination during Routine Testing in Automated Clinical Chemistry and Microbiology Laboratories. Clinical chemistry. 2020 Sep 01;66(9):1190-1199

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PMID: 32870987

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