Pernicious microorganisms: risks of contamination in pharma
Some pharmaceutical manufacturers can struggle to keep microorganisms away from their facilities, which sometimes goes unnoticed until it is too late. While there are numerous threatening microorganisms, this article focuses on some of the most troublesome, highlighting the hazards they pose and analysing how manufacturers can prevent microbial contamination in pharmaceutical plants.
IN MAY 2019, Torrent Pharma Inc. initiated a recall of some of their manufactured pharmaceuticals due to potential microbial contamination.1 The suspected microorganisms, Burkholderia cepacia and Ralstonia pickettii, are well known within the pharmaceutical industry; both microorganisms share certain relevant characteristics, from their ability to proliferate in a broad range of water sources to being especially aggressive against immunocompromised patients. These Gram‑negative bacilli have been linked to Pseudomonas aeruginosa; B. cepacia was formerly known as Pseudomonas cepacia and R. pickettii was first known as Pseudomonas pickettii and then as Burkholderia pickettii before receiving its current name.2,3 These microorganisms typically appear in cystic fibrosis patients and their shared ability to form biofilms is why doctors consider cystic fibrosis a chronic disease.4
Biofilms – an extracellular matrix that confers not only surface adhesion but resistance to external agents and harsh conditions – are one of the main issues that prevents the removal of bacteria in a contaminated system. Eliminating biofilm colonies in humans is almost impossible; this is due to restrictions in the amount of antibacterial agent used. However, attacking the same microorganisms on water pipes of pharmaceutical facilities is, while not easy, more feasible.