Background: People who inject drugs (PWID) are at high risk of severe wounds, invasive infections, and overdoses. To date, there are few data on the bacterial and chemical contaminants PWID are exposed to when using illicitly manufactured fentanyls and stimulants. Methods: Previously used injection drug use equipment was recovered in St Louis, Missouri, by harm reduction organizations over a 12-month period. Syringe residue was analyzed for bacterial contaminants by routine culturing followed by whole genome sequencing of single bacterial isolates. Chemical adulterants in syringe residue were identified by liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry. Results: Bacteria were cultured from 58.75% of 160 syringes analyzed. Polymicrobial growth was common and was observed in 23.75% of samples. Bacillus cereus was the most common pathogen present and was observed in 20.6% of syringe residues, followed closely by Staphylococcus aureus at 18.8%. One hundred syringes underwent mass spectrometry, which demonstrated that chemical adulterants were common and included caffeine, diphenhydramine, lidocaine, quinine, and xylazine. Conclusions: Analysis of syringe residue from discarded drug use equipment demonstrates both chemical and biological contaminants, including medically important pathogens and adulterants.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberofad628
JournalOpen Forum Infectious Diseases
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2024


  • Bacillus cereus
  • Staphylococcus aureus
  • fentanyl
  • injection drug use
  • xylazine


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