According to an October 2010 report by Global Industry Analysts (GIA), the worldwide sterilization equipment market could hit $2.7 billion by 2015 despite the global economic downturn. This figure is predicated upon “the enduring need for efficient infection/contamination control measures, the ever-lurking threat of biological and chemical warfare and recurrent outbreaks of emerging infectious diseases such as swine flu,” the GIA report states.

The biggest market for sterilization devices is the U.S., but on the macro level, the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, and China) along with South Africa will be the next economic targets for medical device manufacturers. China and India are home to the two largest patient populations in the world, and providing equipment to treat their medical needs could help offset some of the long-term effects of the global recession.

The recession has affected every segment of the medical device market, including sterilization gear, which is traditionally one of the strongest performers, given its mission-critical status. The same problems that hinder the growth of the market at large are still in play here: limited funds, longer equipment lifecycles and a greater emphasis on device repair, refurbishment and reprocessing instead of new purchases.

The GIA report notes that a key driver of growth in the sterilization equipment market is the increasing number of surgical procedures that could spike with health care reform. A greater number of insured patients means more surgical procedures, placing emphases on the ability to increase both patient throughput and procedural outcomes, both of which will trigger demand for sterilization equipment.

With an estimated 52.4 percent market share “reinforced mostly through acquisitions and a broad spectrum of products,” according to Frost and Sullivan, Steris Corporation is listed as the dominant player in the sterilization market in its 2008 U.S. Medical Devices Market Outlook. The same report named Getinge (18.7 percent market share) and Advanced Sterilization (17.5 percent market share) as the top second-tier competitors above niche-specific manufacturers 3M, HW Andersen Products, Environmental Tectonics and AbTox.

Key endoscope reprocessing companies include Minntech, which acquired Medivators, Inc. to solidify its 37 percent share of the disinfector/washer market. ASP claims another 27 percent market share, with Custom Ultrasonics holding onto 22 percent in the reprocessor capital equipment market.

The oldest technology in this market segment is high-temperature steam sterilization, which has a proven track record that includes “endorsement from NIH and FDA,” according to Frost and Sullivan. Low-temperature sterilization technologies include Ethylene Oxide (EtO), hydrogen peroxide gas plasma and liquid sterilants. Where the market is expected to see significant advancement is in new modalities for reprocessing (which falls under the broad categorical description of “disinfection”), which will broaden along with advancements in new endoscopes, which are increasingly becoming smaller and more specialized. By 2013, Frost and Sullivan forecasts that the U.S. sterilization market will exceed $365 million in revenues, which should include technologies equipped to handle the repair, replacement, and reprocessing of surgical gear-which could also include liquid chemical sterilizers and sterilizing agents.