Pseudomonas Difficult to Say, But Easy to Get Wrong

Lauren Lee

Lauren Lee
Senior Consultant, Assurity Consulting
11th February 2019

In February 2019, a piercing aftercare saline solution has been found responsible for a number of people contracting infections across the UK.

Lion Care Products Ltd was fined £15,000 (with over £18,000 in costs) after manufacturing and supplying the saline solution found to contain the bacteria Pseudomonas aeruginosa, the source of the infections. More than 160 people suffered infections and even abscesses after using the solution on fresh piercings, which was meant to help with healing.

Pseudomonas aeruginosa is a common bacterium often found in soil and ground water. It is not usually harmful to healthy individuals; however it can cause a range of infections, particularly in those with a weakened immune system.

While medical equipment/devices in particular can be prone to Pseudomonas contamination, from a building services perspective, poorly maintained open and closed water systems, vending machines and plumbed-in water dispenser can also lead to problems. Where the bacteria creates a biofilm on the internal surfaces (lumen) of pipework, it can provide an environment for other pathogenic bacteria to grow, as well as proving tricky to remove, particularly where the components are small and tricky to clean properly.

Public Health England was alerted to this outbreak in late August 2016 where four cases were confirmed, and by September 2016, the outbreak was nation-wide. The Controlling Director of Lion Care Products Ltd breached ‘Cosmetic Product Enforcement Regulations‘ by failing to implement any quality control measures for the product.

It’s interesting to see how Pseudomonas can affect products that aren’t associated with drinking water; in my line of work, sampling potable water to test for the presence of this bacterium occurs every day. This case study demonstrates, if it’s not properly managed, the disastrous effects that a contamination can have.

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