Watchdog calls for testing endoscopes tied to superbug

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A Plymouth Meeting-based healthcare safety organization issued a "high priority safety hazard" report today, detailing steps to reduce infections from a drug-resistant bacteria.

The ECRI Institute said the risk of infection from CRE (carbapenem-resistant enterbacteriaceae)is inherent in the devices, and most, if not all models are "susceptible."

Over the past 7 years, at least 7 hospitals have reported outbreaks of CRE associated with endoscopes for procedures used to treat and diagnose a variety of conditions of the gall bladder and pancreas.

Two weeks ago, UCLA's Ronald Reagan Medical Center revealed that 7 people were infected, 2 may have died, and another 180 people may have been exposed to CRE through contaminated scopes.

ECRI's report says the infection risk from the scopes is a hazard that requires immediate action, and that investigations of earlier infection outbreaks have tagged the cause as either poor cleaning techniques or damaged scopes.

It says the risk can be reduced, however, there's no way now to completely eliminate it.


Among the institute's recommendations:

1.) Doing a baseline culture of all the scopes currently in use, to see if they are harboring the CRE or other bacteria.

2.) If the scopes are now being cleaning with a liquid germicide, flush them, with alcohol, and dry them with filtered forced air.

3.) Consider doing regular culturing of the scopes, and not putting them back into service until the tests are back and negative. ECRI points out that regular testing is standard in Australia and some other countries.

However, it says no single solution will work for every hospital or medical facility.

ECRI is an independent institute which assesses healthcare technology and studies technology-related incidents and risks.

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