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Hospital likely to blame device manufacturer for infection

Bacteria that are resistant to all of the various types of antibiotics that are currently available may sound like science fiction to some people in New Jersey, but this type of bacteria is all too real. A recent so-called "superbug" is believed to have spread from patient to patient on an endoscopic tool that had not been properly cleaned, and hundreds of other patients were allegedly exposed to infection in separate incidents. Although spokespeople for the hospital where the superbug incident is centered -- which is in another state -- have not said much on the matter, others suggest that the hospital's attorneys may be looking to hold the manufacturer of the tool liable.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was not unfamiliar with Olympus Corporation of Americas' endoscopic tool prior to the spread of the superbug. Starting in Jan. 2013, reports of infection from the scope began flooding into the agency. By Dec. 2014, the FDA had received word of over 130 patients who had been infected by the scope.

So how could an endoscopic tool supposedly be responsible for infections in multiple, unrelated patients? The FDA cautioned that the instructions for sanitizing the tool were woefully insufficient. In addition to the insufficient cleaning instructions, the tool's design makes it reportedly exceptionally difficult to clean. The FDA specifically cited the tool's significant number of small parts when discussing the difficulty of cleaning it. 

Sterilization procedures are something with which hospitals in New Jersey and across the country are familiar. Whenever a surgery or other procedure is being performed, a clean environment is necessary to prevent serious or even deadly infections. Reports indicate that the hospital around which the controversy is centered may point fingers at the tool's manufacturer in hopes of relieving the hospital's liability in the cases of infection.

Source:, "Finger-pointing, lawsuits likely to follow 'superbug' scare", Brian Melley, Feb. 20, 2015

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Alan D. Bell
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