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Endoscopes Causing Infections

Endoscopes Causing Infections: Poor Cleaning Procedures Blamed

According to a report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) last week, an Illinois-based outbreak of a drug-resistant superbug, carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceaein (CRE) last year could be blamed on contaminated exam tools.

Specifically, CDC investigators blamed the outbreak on disinfected endoscopes that were still contaminated. Endoscopes are cameras attached to long tubes, which doctors use to snake through the body, so they can examine organs such as the liver and pancreas. Because these dirty endoscopes weren’t completely cleaned before each use, patients became infected with this dangerous type of CRE, called New Delhi metallo-beta-lactamase, or NDM, which is highly resistant to antibiotics.

A CDC team of investigators took a look at nine cases of NDM CRE that occurred between March and July in northern Illinois, including eight cases that occurred at a single hospital. One reason they did so is because they’re concerned about the recent spike in such cases. Between 2009 and 2012, the agency confirmed 27 patients with NDM-producing CRE nationwide, which is bad enough. But in 2013 alone, that number leaped to 69 cases, including 44 from northeastern Illinois, with most from a single hospital. While they were surprised by the jump, they were even more surprised at the fact that the germs were all traced to patients with a history of endoscopic exams of the liver and pancreas, or ERCPs, and that they found the dirty tools to be the culprit.

Strangely, the endoscopes they discovered had undergone high-level disinfection, they still tested positive for the NDM CRE and KPC-producing Klebsiella pneumoniae, which is also a bacterium that is highly resistant to nearly all antibiotics. The CDC investigation found no cleaning lapses on the part of hospital staffers, so they’re puzzled as to why the tools were dirty even after they had been disinfected, and are now focusing on the possibility of a potential design flaw. They have asked hospitals to be sure to follow proper protocol on sterilization of tools. The Illinois hospital at the center of this outbreak has adopted a new sterilization procedure, and since then, no new cases have been reported.

If you or someone you know has contracted or been infected while undergoing an endoscopic procedure, and you believe that a hospital may have been responsible, please contact the Texas Medical Injury Lawyer at Hill Law Firm for a free consultation, in order to protect your rights under the law.

Medical Negligence