Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Cross-contamination worries in all fields

I admit to being just a bit obsessed with how errors happen in different fields, so I found this story of problems in a Dutch fertility clinic in the New York Times to be fascinating (as well as stressful for the families involved):
AMSTERDAM — Twenty-six couples in the Netherlands are waiting to find out if the s/p/e/rm* that was used to fertilize their eggs at a reproductive technology clinic might have come from the wrong men. 
...The oldest child who might have been conceived as a result of the possible mix-up is about a year old. All of the couples possibly affected have been informed and have been offered DNA tests, the clinic said. 
Primarily used in cases of male infertility, ICSI involves injecting a single s/p/e/rm into a mother’s egg. The technician, guided by a microscope, injects the s/p/e/rm using a glass pipette. The tip of the pipette is then discarded. 
The technician, upon completing the procedure, discovered that there was still genetic material on the tip of the pipette, Mr. Geurts said. She notified the supervising technician, and upon further investigation, they discovered that s/p/e/rm from a previous procedure had somehow gotten into the pipette — evidently because the technician had mistakenly used the wrong kind of rubber apparatus on the end of the pipette. 
Mr. Geurts declined to say whether the technician had been punished, calling it a confidential personnel matter.
Given previous problems with fertility clinic errors, I'm rather surprised that the problematic bulbs were anywhere near the laboratory.

*bowdlerizing not because I'm a prude (if the shoe fits! - ed.), but for corporate firewalls, etc. 


  1. Doesn't it seem unlikely that the bulb (rubber apparatus?) could have been the cause? It sounds more like the glass pipette itself was previously used and contaminated. That's weird.

    1. I think there are three pieces to the equipment: the tip, the pipette and the bulb. The tip is always discarded. It sounds like, if the bulb is correct, the pipette can be reused, but if the bulb is incorrect, the "male genetic material" will be pulled into the pipette.

      Seems to me the answer is 1) never have the wrong bulb available, or 2) always change out the pipette as well.

    2. I feel like if you're running an in vitro clinic, you should always be running brand new stuff or autoclaving after each use.

  2. "a single ... into a mother's egg"

    missed one...


looks like Blogger doesn't work with anonymous comments from Chrome browsers at the moment - works in Microsoft Edge, or from Chrome with a Blogger account - sorry! CJ 3/21/20