Contaminated endoscopes are suspected of causing a deadly outbreak of the superbug CRE (carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae) at UCLA hospital in California, where at least 7 patients have been infected and 2 have died. In a second California hospital, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, 4 patients have been confirmed as infected with the deadly bacteria.
The bacteria can be transmitted during a procedure known as ERCP, or endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography. The ERCP procedure involves an endoscope -- a flexible, lighted tube that is inserted through the mouth, throat, stomach, and into the duodenum (the top of the small intestine). Approximately half a million people undergo an ERCP annually in the US. The ERCP procedure is used to diagnose and treat problems in the pancreas, gall bladder, and bile ducts.
In February, 2015, the FDA issued a warning that ERCP endoscopes may allow for the transmission of certain drug-resistant superbugs. According to the FDA, the design of the scope may make effective cleaning difficult, as the device features crevices that can harbor pathogens, such as CRE and E-coli.
In approximately 40 - 50% of cases, CRE is fatal. CRE is so deadly because the bacteria are highly resistant to antibiotics.
While the California cases are the most recent, there have been other outbreaks of CRE resulting from ERCP in the past few years. From November, 2012 through spring of 2014, 32 people in a Seattle hospital were infected, 11 of whom died. In 2013, 38 patients who underwent the endoscopic procedure in an Illinois hospital tested positive for the CRE infection.
For more information on ERCP, CRE or other superbug infections, or to discuss other cases of possible medical malpractice or product liability, contact Koskoff, Koskoff & Bieder at 203-336-4421 or by email.