Antibiotics are widely used in the treatment of bacterial infections and some autoimmune diseases. The main therapeutic effect is to kill or to inhibit the grow of bacteria.


Adverse effects of antibiotics

Adverse health effects of occupational exposure to antibiotics in health care are scarcely published. Weak and moderate effects include hypersensitivity (itch, runny nose, irritation of the eyes) and allergic reactions on skin (eczema, nettle rash, allergic dermatitis) and inhalation (asthma and wheezing). More severe effects include resistance and anaphylactic shock.


Occupational exposure to antibiotics

Nurses handling antibiotics frequently report that they smell the drugs, have a bitter taste in their mouth, and observe splashes and leakages during the preparation. Nurses also report that some antibiotics are very difficult to handle. For example, piperacillin dissolves badly and has to be shaken long and thoroughly and ceftriaxon is causing overpressure in the vial when dissolved. Withdrawing the syringe from the vial results in leakage along the needle.

The preparation and administration of antibiotics is mainly performed by nurses at inpatient departments in hospitals. The antibiotics are mostly prepared with a needle/syringe combination or with a needle/spike/syringe combination on a table top or bench and not in a biological safety cabinet or isolator. If available, gloves are used for personal protection. Compared to the cytotoxic drugs, the protection is in general very limited.


Environmental monitoring

Antibiotics can be determined in environmental air by collecting particles and aerosols. More convenient is taking wipe samples to measure environmental contamination comparable to the cytotoxic drugs. Contamination on the gloves can be measured to check spillage during handling of the drugs and to evaluate handling procedures.


Biological monitoring

As far as we know, no methods have been published for biological monitoring of occupational exposure to antibiotics.

To make environmental monitoring easily available for routine practise, Exposure Control has developed the AB WIPE KIT.


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