Image of Koli bacteria. Photo via Pixabay.
Image of Koli bacteria. Photo via Pixabay.

Huntington Memorial Hospital officials said Wednesday they are investigating a spread of bacteria that may be linked to a medical scope that has been blamed for infections at hospitals across the country, including at Ronald Reagan UCLA and Cedars-Sinai medical centers.

Officials at the Pasadena hospital did not provide specifics about how many patients may be affected by the spread of pseudomonas bacteria, but described the number as “small.” Hospital officials said they alerted public health authorities about a possible link between infections and Olympus Corp. scopes, even though the link has not been confirmed.

Hospital officials said they also quarantined the suspected equipment and have been monitoring potentially affected patients.

“The link between this bacteria, pseudomonas, which is a commonly acquired bacteria found prevalently outside the hospital setting, has not yet been traced to a scope,” said Dr. Paula Verrette, Huntington’s senior vice president and chief medical officer for quality and physician services. “We are still investigating the potential link and have engaged two nationally renowned medical research facilities for assistance.

“Even though the link between the scope and bacteria is not confirmed, we alerted the affected patients about a possible link as well as reported the bacterial growth to health officials.”

Olympus scopes came under close scrutiny earlier this year, most notably after officials at UCLA announced in February that seven patients, including two who died, were exposed to antibiotic-resistant bacteria — called CRE — apparently spread by improperly disinfected Olympus duodenoscopes. Cedars-Sinai announced a month later that four of its patients were similarly infected.

In March, Olympus America Inc. issued revised guidelines for cleaning the scopes, but federal authorities — including the U.S. Department of Justice — have been actively investigating the infections and actions of scope manufacturers.

Duodenoscopes are flexible, lighted tubes inserted down the throat for visual examination of the duodenum or portion of the small intestine closest to the stomach. The devices are used to drain fluids from pancreatic and biliary ducts blocked by cancerous tumors, gallstones or other conditions.

Because the devices are reusable, they are supposed to be thoroughly cleaned after each use so pathogens are not transferred from one patient to the next.

“This is a problem facing every hospital and we will be part of the solution,” Verrette said. “Guidelines in place for disinfecting and monitoring scopes for bacterial growth are in line with FDA and manufacturer standards. We cannot deprive appropriate care to patients whose health issues can be relieved and addressed through the use of these scopes, but we are proceeding with an abundance of caution in our disinfecting and monitoring protocols to ensure patient safety.”

— Wire Reports 

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