According to a federal report, nation’s dirty scopes infect scores of Americans with perfectly preventable diseases every year. Federal researchers found that the most and severe cases of hospital-acquired infections were tied to bacteria-carrying duodenoscopes that hadn’t been properly sterilized.
The recent research was prompted by dozens of warnings that the tools used in medical investigations of patients with a bile or pancreatic duct problem led to at least two deaths and hundreds of infections in the last three years or so.
But study authors underscored that the most hazardous medical instruments are a series of specialized endoscopes known as duodenoscopes, which should not be mistaken for regular endoscopes. The latter instruments are used in routine procedures such as colonoscopies and gastrointestinal endoscopies.
Duodenoscopes, on the other hand, are used in more complicated investigations, and they are also trickier to clean. The report found that the scopes were flawed ever since their production.
Investigators said that the maker, Olympus Corp, has been aware that the devices could pose a health risk because of their design for years. But it took a couple of more years for the company to issue a warning, as more infections spurred.
Additionally, the Food and Drug Administration was also briefed on the sanitizing issues in 2013, but it needed nearly two years to issue an alert. In the meantime, the dirty scopes were involved in 68 more cases of hospital-acquired infections.
But the situation could be a lot worse as hospitals often fail to properly track back the infections to the dirty medical instruments, or they provide incomplete information on the issue to federal regulators.
As more and more cases of infections were directly linked to Olympus duodenoscopes, the company announced Friday that it would recall the faulty tools and would develop a design that makes them easier to clean. About 85 percent of duodenoscopes in U.S. hospitals are provided by the Tokyo-based manufacturer.
The instruments are hazardous because they promote antibiotic-resistant infections in patients that come to a hospital to get rid of a primary condition. The infections are caused by superbugs, or bacteria that are immune to common antibiotics. These bacteria kill up to 40 percent of patients, especially if they have a weakened immune system, experts warn.
Researchers explained that the harmful bacteria are often trapped in some parts of the existing duodenoscopes and are easily transmitted from one patient to another.
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