Published On: 3.31.2015 North Carolina

Dirty Endoscopes Yield Dead Patients

A recent deadly outbreak of a new bacteria known as “CRE” is sweeping across the nation. Hospitals in Washington, Pennsylvania and Illinois have reported cases of the new drug-resistant, deadly ‘superbug’ stemming from an improperly sterilized endoscope, called a duodenoscope,  manufactured by Olympus.

News of this deadly strain of bacteria dates back to 2012 where up to 40% of those patients who became infected died.

The scope has been widely used to diagnose disorders of the digestive systems, including cancers and gallstones. Nearly 500,000 patients in the U.S. each year are routinely screened using this equipment, but because the manufacturers and the Food and Drug Administration have not issued warnings, news of the risks associated with endoscopy testing has been slow to get to doctors and the public.

Because of their construction, the areas surrounding the lens of the scope are not easily cleaned, leaving the deadly bacteria a perfect place to hide.

The FDA recently issued a statement saying that it is aware of the problem and warning of the potential infection risks associated with these scopes. A spokesperson at a Washington hospital said, “Some parts of the scopes may be extremely difficult to access and clean thoroughly, and effective cleaning of all areas of the duodenoscope may not be possible.”

In Seattle, records show there have been seven patients who died from infections that have been traced back to contaminated duodenoscopes.

Some hospitals are addressing the outbreak by quarantining their scopes for 48 hours after each use and sterilization protocol to further minimize the risk of infection.

The FDA has been widely criticized by the healthcare industry for its slow reaction to this CRE outbreak and allowing so many patient deaths to occur before taking notice.

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