We compared the potential for bacterial contamination of a proparacaine hydrochloride solution preserved with benzalkonium chloride, which is used with fluorescein paper for tonometry, to that of a fluorescein-benoxinate hydrochloride combination solution preserved with chlorobutanol. We contaminated bottles of each solution with Pseudomonas aeruginosa or Staphylococcus aureus (107 organisms per milliliter of eyedrop solution). From the fluorescein-benoxinate hydrochloride solution, Staphylococcus organisms were cultured in declining numbers over time, with a half-life of nine seconds, and no Staphylococcus organisms were recovered after five minutes. Pseudomonas organisms disappeared from this solution within 15 seconds. Neither species was viable after 15 seconds in the proparacaine hydrochloride solution. Additionally, we cultured 12 bottles of fluorescein- benoxinate hydrochloride and 15 bottles of proparacaine hydrochloride that had been in use in the clinic for one month. No organisms were recovered from a drop dispensed from any bottle or from the tips, caps, rims, or solution from within any bottle, except that five colonies of Staphylococcus grew from the external rim of one bottle. We conclude that both solutions sterilize themselves rapidly and effectively. Either may be used safely for tonometry.
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