CBS news reports on how some medical instruments used in various endoscopies were not cleaned properly, causing a superbug from the instruments to spread to multiple patients.

The bacteria was a special, superbug resistant bacteria. The hospital finds that 179 other patients may have been exposed to carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae, or CRE, and they were being notified and offered free home testing kits to decipher if they were infected with the superbug. All of the exposures occurred in the last couple of months.

How was this bacteria spread exactly?

“An internal investigation determined that carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE) bacteria may have been transmitted during a procedure that uses this specialized scope to diagnose and treat pancreaticobiliary diseases and a contributing factor in the death of two patients. The two contaminated scopes have been removed and the hospital is performing a thorough decontamination process that goes above and beyond the manufacturer and national standards,” according to CBS news.

Health officials said the hospital issued a warning to the Los Angeles County Department of Health and the California Department of Public Health as soon as they realized the equipment had been contaminated with the superbug. CRE germs are resistant to basically all of the antibiotics and are more fatal than the more widely known superbug MRSA.

Dr. Moellering, an infectious disease specialist, commented on superbugs to CBS news. He said,

“This is a ticking time bomb because of the fact that the bacteria are developing resistance mechanisms more rapidly now than we can find new antibiotics. And it is in a very real sense an emergency. We need to deal with this soon, or we're back to the pre-antibiotic era.”

What is this superbug?

It is in the same family of bacteria as E. coli. California health officials said that most of the health care facilities do not perform CRE screenings as a prevention tool, despite the fact that this superbug is considered an urgent, increasing public health issue around the country.

Even though the superbug can be passed from person to person, experts say that healthy people are at a very minor danger of infection. It often is an issue of concern for people with other medical problems in hospitals or nursing homes where germs commonly lurk.

How did the instruments gather so much bacteria?

CBS explains, “The scopes have a long fiber-optic cable with a light and camera at the end so doctors can see inside the body, the station explains. They're highly effective when used to treat certain cancers and gallstones, but the devices can accumulate bacteria that can be passed from patient to patient.”

Because of their tendency to gather bacteria this is not the first time that these instruments have caused the spread of this bacteria.


Gerry Oginski
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NY Medical Malpractice & Personal Injury Trial Lawyer
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