Deadly Superbug Bacteria - "CRE"

The Seattle Times reported that dozens of patients of patients at Virginia Mason Medical Center were infected with the "Superbug" bacteria carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE) between 2012 and 2014. The article reported that the infections occurred when endoscopes contaminated with bacteria were used on other patients. That is, a scope used in one patient was then used in another patient without being adequately cleaned beforehand, thus transferring a disease from patient to another. Most of the patients in question underwent a procedure "known as ERCP, or endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography, which diagnoses and treats bile-duct and pancreatic problems. The VMMC came under fire when patients learned that the hospital officials did not disclose the nature of the illness at the time of the infection.

The manufacturers of the particular scopes used (called duodenscopes) have also come under scrutiny because the scopes themselves may have been defectively designed by allowing these bacteria to transfer from one patient to another, even if the the clean procedures were followed. In March, CNN reported that some of the endoscopes involved in one CRE Superbug death case were not cleared by the FDA prior to use. One large manufacturer, Olympus America, reported began "selling its TJF-Q180V duodenoscope in 2010, but the FDA didn't notice until late 2013 or early 2014 that the company had never asked for clearance to put it on the market..." Families of those who were injured or dies as a result of the defective endoscopy scopes have filed lawsuits against the manufacturers. VMMC has joined a lawsuit against the scope manufacturer Olympus, alleging that the endoscope was defective.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "healthy people usually do not get CRE infections - they usually happen to patients in hospitals, nursing homes, and other healthcare settings." The frightening thing about these Superbugs is that "some CRE bacteria have become resistant to most available antibiotics. Infections with these germs are very difficult to treat, and can be deadly - one report cites they can contribute to death in up to 50% of patients who become infected." After all the attention to the Superbug, the White House has developed a Superbug action plan that addresses CRE, and the CDC has issued a new duodenscope protocol for healthcare facilities to use to reduce the spread of the Superbug.