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Patient sues scope manufacturer amid UCLA superbug outbreak

By amanda schallert

Feb. 25, 2015 12:20 p.m.

An 18-year-old hospital patient at UCLA is suing a health care device maker over alleged negligence and fraud after its medical scopes were tied to UCLA’s superbug outbreak, according to the Los Angeles Times.

High school student Aaron Young, who was exposed to the antibiotic-resistant bacteria CRE at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center during procedures that used a contaminated medical scope in October and January, filed the lawsuit against Olympus Corp. of the Americas in the Los Angeles County Superior Court Monday, according to the Los Angeles Times. Olympus, which is part of a Japanese electronics corporation and makes health care products, manufactured the duodenoscopes that spread CRE, or carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae, among UCLA patients.

Young is still hospitalized at UCLA because of the infection, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The design of the widely used medical scopes may make them difficult or impossible to fully sterilize, causing bacteria to remain in them and spread between patients, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The scopes offer the least invasive way to perform a medical procedure called endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography, or ERCP.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the lawsuit alleges that Olympus redesigned a model of its duodenoscopes last year but gave health care workers cleaning instructions for an older model of the scope. The suit alleges that this meant hospitals were unable to effectively clean the newer scopes.

UCLA officials said hospital staff followed all sterilization instructions before reusing scopes.

The FDA said it received 75 medical device reports related to possible microbial transmission caused by the duodenoscopes in the U.S. from January 2013 to December 2014. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notified the FDA in fall 2013 that the duodenoscopes were potentially connected to the superbug. The FDA did not indicate that the scopes should be recalled in its statements.

UCLA and the University of California are not currently defendants in the suit, but may be included after further investigation, according to the Los Angeles Times. Young’s lawyer Pete Kaufman, Olympus and UCLA could not immediately be reached for comment.

This is the first lawsuit reported in response to the outbreak of the superbug, which may have been spread to about 180 patients in medical procedures with duodenoscopes between October and January. UCLA Health officials said at least seven patients were infected and two of the infected patients died.

If CRE enters a person’s bloodstream, it can kill 40 to 50 percent of those infected, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Compiled by Amanda Schallert, Bruin senior staff.

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