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Outbreaks Related to Olympus Scopes

According to The Los Angeles Times, a second superbug outbreak was discovered at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in March 2015. About four patients were infected with the superbug via the Olympus manufactured scopes.

Additional Patients Exposed

Another 67 patients were exposed to the deadly virus. Cedars-Sinai officials said one of the patients infected with the superbug had died.

August 2014 - February 2015

The same model duodenoscope was linked to the second outbreak, which occurred from August 2014 to mid-February 2015. California is not the only state where a superbug outbreak occurred following the use of a duodenoscope.

Outbreak in Seattle

Another superbug outbreak came at Virginia Mason Hospital in Seattle. About 32 patients were infected from 2012 to 2014. Of the patients exposed to the superbug outbreak, 11 died.

Duodenoscopes and Lawsuits

Other states including Pennsylvania, Illinois and Florida have reported superbug outbreaks in recent years because of scopes possibly made by Olympus. Because of the outbreaks and lack of FDA action, exposed and infected patients are filing superbug scope lawsuits.

What are Endoscopes?

An endoscope is a long tube that can be rigid or flexible and is inserted into the body. At the end of the tube is a video camera. The light on the device illuminates the area the doctor wants to examine inside the body. The video camera takes images of the patient’s body.

superbug illustration

Use of Endoscopes

The images captured by the scope are shown on a video monitor where doctors can view them during the procedure. Doctors can retrieve foreign objects with the scope or assist with biopsies.

Discover & Confirm Diagnosis

An endoscope is often used to discover or confirm a diagnosis when other options like a CT scan or MRI are inconclusive. The device is inserted into either a person’s mouth or rectum.

Superbug Problems

What is a Superbug?

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), each year about 2 million people become infected with the antibiotic resistant bacteria, and approximately 23,000 of them die from the infection. The term “superbug” is often used to refer to CRE, a subgroup of Enterobacteriaceae bacteria that are hard to treat.

Superbug Bacteria

Like most bacteria, the superbug bacteria mutates as it multiplies. Unfortunately, this bacterium mutates in a particular way which makes it a superbug. Carbapenem, a type of antibiotic, is generally used to treat severe cases of infection, although CRE is resistant to carbapenem. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CRE cases are on the rise.

Enterobacteriaceae is made of the following bacteria:

  • Escherichia coli, or E. coli, found in a person’s intestines
  • Klebsiella, a bacteria that usually causes pneumonia or blood infections

Individuals at Risk

Healthy individuals are not at risk for acquiring a superbug infection. Instead, certain individuals are at risk for acquiring the superbug, including:

  • Those with a compromised immune system.
  • People who have invasive devices such as tubes going into their bodies.
  • Individuals taking certain antibiotics.

Those who have undergone an endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography, where a duodenoscope is used, are potentially at risk. This especially applies to patients for whom CRE was present on the device.

Exposure to CRE

Exposure to CRE most often occurs via person-to-person contact in healthcare settings like nursing homes and hospitals.

The infection typically enters the body through:

  • Contact with stool
  • Contact with an open wound
  • Through medical devices like catheters and duodenoscopes

Symptoms of Antibiotic Resistant Superbug

Symptoms of CRE superbug infection depends on the organ it infects. For instance, if the kidney is infected, a person may have flank pain. In other patients, an unexplained high fever may be the signaling symptom. But a fever is considered a vague symptom, and one trick in diagnosing a superbug is that its vague symptoms resemble those of non-CRE infections.

Symptoms of CRE superbug infection
Severe urinary tract infection Severe pneumonia
Septic shock Sepsis
High fever Isolating organisms (resistant to any antibiotics)

Treatment Difficulty

About 40 to 50 percent of people with a CRE infection die because it is so complicated to treat. In fact, medical experts said it can be harder to treat than other notoriously virulent infections, including MRSA, Clostridium difficile and C. difficile (C. diff). Doctors typically use older antibiotics to treat CRE. New studies show a combination of drugs shows a small improvement in survival.

superbug scope device

Potentially Fatal Bacteria

CRE overwhelms the body. Bacteria spread throughout the body over a period of a couple days to a few weeks. Since the individual is already ill, it worsens their health. Often, the infection is one of many things contributing to infected patients’ deaths.

doctor looking at medical image
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  1. Aleccia, J. (2015, March 4). Widow sues Virginia Mason; hospital begins notifying ‘superbug’ victims. The Seattle Times. Retrieved from http://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/health/widow-sues-virginia-mason-hospital-begins-notifying-superbug-victims/
  2. Lupkin, S. (2015, March 4). Scopes that spread UCLA 'Superbug' were awaiting FDA clearance. ABC News. Retrieved from http://abcnews.go.com/Health/scopes-spread-ucla-superbug-awaiting-fda-clearance/story?id=29382861
  3. National Instuitutes of Health. (2015). Endoscope. MedlinePlus. Retrieved from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002360.htm
  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). General information about CRE. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/hai/organisms/cre/cre-patientgeneral.html
  5. CDC. (2015). Antibiotic/Microbial Resistance. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/drugresistance/
  6. Terhune, C. (2015, March 4). Superbug outbreak extends to Cedars-Sinai hospital, linked to scope. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved from http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-cedars-sinai-infections-20150304-story.html
  7. Falagas, M.E. (2014). Antibiotic treatment of infections due to carbapenem-resistant enterobacteriaceae: Systematic evaluation of the available evidence. American Society for Microbiology. Retrieved from http://aac.asm.org/content/58/2/654.full
  8. Terhune, C., & Petersen, M. (2015, August 4). Superbug outbreaks: FDA issues more scope-cleaning guidance to hospitals. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved from: http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-fda-scope-cleaning-20150804-story.html
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