Healthcare News & Insights

More outbreaks linked to tainted scopes in hospitals

Your hospital may want to be extra careful when performing procedures on patients with fiber-optic duodenoscopes. Here’s why: There’s been another reported superbug outbreak directly linked to tainted scopes in hospitals. 

Earlier this year, several patients fell ill due to an outbreak of carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE) bacteria that was traced to the scopes used during their procedures, according to an article in the Los Angeles Times

Now, new reports say more patients were exposed to dangerous antibiotic-resistant bacteria because of these tools.

The affected patients all underwent procedures using duodenoscopes to treat issues in their digestive tracts at Huntington Memorial Hospital in California. After reviewing lab samples, Huntington Memorial found there could be a link between patients infected with pseudomonas bacteria and the fiber-optic scopes.

At least three patients were likely infected with the bacteria after their procedures, and that number may grow as the hospital continues investigating the problem.

Feds cracking down

If you’re using these duodenoscopes at your hospital to treat gastrointestinal issues, expect more scrutiny in the future.

The feds are currently investigating three of the largest manufacturers of the scopes. Each of the manufacturers (Olympus Corp, Fujifilm and Pentax Medical) received warning letters from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) because they didn’t report similar infection outbreaks related to these scopes.

Also, the U.S. Justice Department has subpoenaed each company, and top health officials are asking hospitals to voluntarily report whether they’ve had any issues with infections or illnesses after using duodenoscopes on patients.

Issues with sterilizing scopes

This scrutiny may mean that the FDA’s one step closer to releasing new guidelines about the proper sterilization of dudenoscopes.

The scopes have come under fire for having design flaws that make them difficult to clean, even before human error comes into play. Because the tools are so small, it’s tough to completely sterilize them using common cleaning techniques.

Several hospitals that have experienced superbug outbreaks due tainted scopes only resolved the problem after adopting more stringent cleaning requirements for the scopes, including a second round of sterilization and additional testing for residual bacteria once the cleaning process is complete.

Once the FDA’s finished its investigation, similar cleaning processes may be required for all hospitals using these scopes.

In the meantime, it’s important to make sure your scopes aren’t inadvertently spreading illnesses and bacteria to patients.

If your surgeons use these tools regularly, you may want to look into what extra steps your hospital can take to keep them clean. It’s also critical to closely monitor any procedures performed with fiber-optic duodenoscopes and watch for signs of any bacterial outbreaks.

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