LOS ANGELES (AP) – A “superbug” outbreak suspected in the deaths of two Los Angeles hospital patients is raising disturbing questions about the design of a hard-to-clean medical instrument.
At least seven people – two of whom died – have been infected with a potentially lethal, antibiotic-resistant strain of bacteria after undergoing endoscopic procedures at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center between October and January. And more than 170 other patients may have been exposed as well, university officials said.
UCLA said the infections may have been transmitted through at least two contaminated endoscopes that were used to diagnose and treat pancreatic and bile-duct problems.
The infections occurred even though the instruments had been cleaned according to the manufacturer’s instructions, the hospital said.
The episode is the latest in a series of outbreaks involving such instruments.
“You can very easily do everything right and still have some contamination,” said Dr. Deverick Anderson, an infectious-disease expert at Duke University. “We’re finding this is a problem, but it’s probably one that we don’t have a very good solution to right now.”
Lawrence Muscarella, an infection-control expert, said the recent incidents point to a design flaw that needs to be addressed.
An endoscope – or more specifically in this case, a duodenoscope – is a thin, flexible fiber-optic tube that is inserted down the throat to enable a doctor to examine an organ. It typically has a light and a miniature camera.