Health department welcomes recall of lubricating gel

Health department welcomes recall of lubricating gel

South Africa – The Department of Health has welcomed the recall of the medical lubricant gel called Lubri-A, otherwise known as Sterile Lubricating Jelly .

This, after at least 380 patients developed a fungus infection, following use of the medical lubricant gel .

The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) undertook an investigation from January 2022 to December 2023 into an unusually high number of patients in hospitals across South Africa with positive cultures of a fungus called Wickerhamomyces anomalus, previously known as Candida pelliculosa .

“The Health Department applauds the NICD and the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority’s (SAHPRA) decision to recall the contaminated health product .

This product, according to the department, has been used in both public and private health facilities for medical procedures such as insertion of urinary catheters and ultrasound-guided insertion of venous catheters .

According to the NICD, current evidence suggests that a potential source of this fungus may have been a contaminated medical lubricating jelly used by health professionals across the health system in the country .

“This could have introduced the fungus into the bloodstream or other body sites in some patients,” the department explained .

“However, it is not yet certain if all cases in this outbreak represent true infections .

A proportion of these cases may represent pseudo-infections .

“A pseudo-infection is a positive culture in the laboratory without a true infection in the patient which may occur, for example, if there was fungal contamination of the patient’s skin by contaminated lubricating jelly before collection of a specimen .

An independent outbreak investigation conducted by the Western Cape provincial government earlier this year revealed that clusters of cases at two Cape Town hospitals may have been linked to the use of contaminated batches of lubricating jelly sachets .

The department said most of the cases at one Western Cape hospital were assessed to be pseudo-infections .

“This product has since been confirmed to be used by facilities with clusters of cases in several other provinces .

The NICD reviewed public-sector laboratory records from 1 January 2022 through to 4 December 2023 .

During this period, 380 patients with Wickerhamomyces anomalus positive specimens were identified in seven provinces .

“The department is working closely with SAHPRA, the NICD and the manufacturer Electro-Spyres to ensure the product in question is no longer used and is recalled with immediate effect and that all unopened lubricant sachets or batches are returned through the usual distribution channels .

Although there are no reports of fatalities linked to this contaminated product, the continued use of the product may place the health of patients at risk .

“The NICD will support hospital teams to investigate individual patient cases to establish if lubricating jelly was used for any medical procedures before the positive culture and if patients had evidence of a true infection and any adverse sequelae .

The department has alerted the provincial health authorities and clinicians to place all suspected batches on hold until further information from the ongoing investigation is known .

“There is no need for members of the public to panic as the situation is under control .

Healthcare professionals who have used this product have been urged to monitor their patients for any signs of an infection and to liaise with their local laboratories to check if any of their hospitalised patients have had a positive fungal culture after use of this product .

The signs or symptoms will depend on the body site that is affected .

Meanwhile, the department said the recall is limited to the product called LUBRI-A (2 .

5g and 50g sachets) and does not affect other lubricating gel products authorised for sale in South Africa .

“The department will always prioritise the health of the population using safe and effective medical products to improve health status through the prevention of illness, disease and the promotion of healthy lifestyles .