Study finds risk factors for infection from superbug-tainted scopes

A new study from UCLA Health identifies factors that increase the likelihood of a patient being infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria from tainted scopes.

The study, published in Gastrointestinal Endoscopy, examined a 2015 outbreak at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, where eight patients were sickened and three later died from exposure to carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae, or CRE, a bacteria that is resistant to antibiotics. Researchers found that patients faced an increased risk of exposure to the bacteria if they had a stent placed in a bile duct using a tainted scope, had a history of bile duct cancer or were hospital inpatients at the time of the procedure.

Among the team members were clinicians directly involved in reporting and halting the outbreak at Ronald Reagan. The infections were traced to two duodenoscopes, according to the study announcement, and the team analyzed data from 104 patients who had been exposed to either of the two tainted scopes to find the three potential risk factors for CRE transmission.

The study team noted the need for additional research due to the small sample size and limited research on the topic. Meanwhile, study authors said that if clinicians suspect that patients may have been exposed to CRE through a contaminated scope, they should closely monitor any patient that has one of the three factors to help prevent an outbreak. They also suggested extended monitoring because patients can develop an acute infection up to three months after exposure. 

To learn more:
- read the study announcement
- here's the study