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News Release - Queen's University researcher says there is potential for disease transmission even if new syringes and needles are used

Monday, July 8, 2019

From: Queen’s University

News release

(July 2019) Kingston, Ontario — New research from Queen’s University shows patients may be at risk of contracting hepatitis C if they receive medication drawn from a multidose vial shared between patients, even if the physician uses sterile needles and syringes.

Drug manufacturers often package injectable medications in vials containing multiple doses to increase efficiency and reduce waste. The anesthesia workspace, including the medication preparation area, can become contaminated with both visible and invisible substances during routine procedures, including the outside surfaces of medication vials. Accordingly, clinical guidelines caution against using multidose vials for more than one patient unless the vials are kept in a location away from patient treatment areas.

The study, published in the Online First edition of Anesthesiology, the peer-reviewed medical journal of the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA), found that when the top of a medication vial is contaminated with hepatitis C virus, the medication inside the vial can become contaminated with the virus when a second clean syringe is subsequently used.


“We demonstrated that the hepatitis C virus remains stable and infectious not only on various surfaces, but in several commonly-used medications for several days as well. We show that, even if clinicians clean the medication vials with alcohol, this may not completely eradicate the virus.”

“It has not previously been demonstrated that health care-acquired hepatitis C can be transmitted by sharing medications even if new sterile syringes and needles are used for each patient. This could be a previously unrecognized mechanism of health care-acquired infection.”

Janet M. van Vlymen, Deputy Head, Department of Anesthesiology & Perioperative Medicine, Queen’s University School of Medicine

Associated links

The paper is available for viewing on the ASA website.


Follow Queen’s University on Twitter: @Queensu; @QueensuMedia

Anne Craig

Media Relations Officer

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