'A problem facing every hospital': Superbug outbreak linked to scopes, again

Three patients infected so far

Another California hospital is investigating a potential link between a medical endoscope developed by Olympus—the company linked to a superbug outbreak at two other California hospitals—and a superbug outbreak at its facility.

On Wednesday, representatives from Huntington Memorial Hospital in Pasadena said it had informed health authorities that some patients who underwent a procedure with a duodenoscope have been diagnosed with pseudomonas bacteria. The hospital noted it first discovered the potential link in June while reviewing lab samples.

So far, the hospital has reported that three patients have been infected, but that number could rise as the investigation gets underway, Chad Terhune reports for the Los Angeles Times.

Paula Verrette, SVP and CMO for quality and physician services at Huntington, says that the hospital has alerted affected patients of the potential link, even though it has not been confirmed. She says the hospital told patients and their families about the risks of the procedure.

"This is a problem facing every hospital," Verrette says. "We cannot deprive appropriate care to patients whose health issues can be relieved or addressed through the use of these scopes, but we are proceeding with an abundance of caution in our disinfecting and monitoring protocols to ensure patient safety."

More on connection between endoscopes, superbugs

This is not the first time Olympus's duodenoscopes have come under fire.

As many as 179 patients could have been exposed to carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE) after having an endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography at UCLA's Ronald Reagan Medical Center between October 2014 and January 2015. Seven patients were confirmed to have CRE infections, and two of those patients died.

Meanwhile, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles in March reported that four patients had been infected with CRE and up to 67 more might have been exposed after being treated with the duodenoscopes.

In addition, Seattle-based Virginia Mason Medical Center noted the Olympus scopes sickened 39 patients  between 2012 and 2014—even though the hospital had followed official cleaning procedures for the devices. At least 11 of those patients died, but it is unclear what other factors may have caused their deaths.

Earlier this week, FDA released warning letters to several scope manufacturers—including Olympus—alleging that several companies linked to recent superbug outbreaks did not notify the agency in a timely manner when they realized their scopes may have contributed to the death or serious harm of patients.

Specifically, the agency says that Olympus knew of an outbreak involving 16 patients in May 2012, but did not inform FDA of the event until earlier this year.

However, FDA added that "currently available information indicates that the benefits of these devices continue to outweigh the risks in appropriately selected patients" (Terhune, Los Angeles Times, 8/19; Aguilera, KPCC News, 8/19; AP/Sacramento Bee, 8/20).

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