Lieff Cabraser Civil Justice Blog

Federal Agencies Move to Decrease ‘Superbug’ Infections from Medical Scopes in U.S. Hospitals

Federal agencies move to decrease 'superbug' infections from medical scopes in U.S. hospitals

Two federal agencies took steps this week to address growing public health concerns about potentially fatal, antibiotic-resistant infections caught by patients in U.S. hospitals.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released an analysis this week indicating drug-resistant infections are expected to lead to as many as 37,000 deaths in the U.S. over the next five years unless healthcare providers collaborate to address the problem now.

The CDC directed public health departments and hospitals to communicate quickly about outbreaks of antibiotic-resistant infections and to work together to implement shared infection control actions to decrease the spread of infections between facilities, a current problem. Additionally, the CDC report specifically states the need for appropriate antibiotic use to control infections from CRE (carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae), MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), Clostridium difficile (C. difficile), and resistant Pseudomonas aeruginosa.

Also this week, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released new, more intensive duodenoscope cleaning protocols, which devices have been linked with spreading CRE bacterial infections between patients over the past several years. The FDA is studying whether the spread of CRE is associated with hospital cleaning procedures, or a design and manufacturing flaw by the makers of duodenoscopes.

The leading manufacturer of duodenoscopes worldwide, Olympus, made a design change to its duodenoscopes in 2010 and failed to get FDA approval for the change. Patients charge in lawsuits that this new generation of medical scope is more likely to spread superbugs than earlier scopes due to defective design changes.

While the latest regulatory activity may prove helpful to patients and families in the future, it’s too late for people like Willie (Bill) Warner who died of CRE following an endoscopic procedure at a North Carolina hospital in 2013. His widow, Carla Warner, is represented by Lieff Cabraser.

“During Bill’s long battle I watched as a man who was once strong and innovative — a concrete mixer driver — become unable to do even the simplest tasks himself,” Mrs. Warner said. “I watched him lose 60 pounds in a matter of months despite the tube feedings I ran every day. I saw his knuckles turn white from clenching the sheets in unbearable pain. I listened to him gasp for air as his O2 levels plummeted and heard him cry out begging me not to leave his side due to the hallucinations he experienced in his delirium.”

USA Today has been investigating antibiotic resistant infections following endoscopic procedures, hospital response, and U.S. government response since early this year. This week the newspaper published an in-depth article on these issues, which includes Mrs. Warner’s recent testimony during and FDA expert panel on duodenoscopes and bacterial infections. Click here to read USA Today’s in-depth article and to learn more about Mrs. Warner’s story.