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Dirty Scopes Infected Patients With Deadly Superbugs, Report

Update Date: Jan 15, 2016 06:16 PM EST

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria infected hundreds when they used dirty medical devices called duodenoscopes, said a report  published Wednesday by the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.

Led by Sen. Patty Murray, the probe found that the scopes made by Olympus led to at least 25 outbreaks, as well as 250 superbug infections in various countries from 2012 to 2015. These figures are higher than have been imagined.

Duodenoscopes are devices that can probe the upper section of the small intestine or duodenum, which can raise the risk of infection as its design has made it tough to clean.

Olympus company was told about the two infections a couple of years ago in the Netherlands. Although Olympus needed to inform the U.S. Food and Drug Administration about the health risk of the device, it did not pass on the information until February last year. Thus, the device continued to be used.

"It is their responsibility when the device that they have manufactured has safety defects to notify the patients, the doctors, the hospitals," said Murray, according to the New York Times. "People should know this. We should not allow manufacturers to knowingly allow the use of any device or medication that's not safe."

The FDA's tardy response was also slammed. The agency was told about 11 outbreaks related to the use of duodenoscopes two years ago.

"Some of the hospitals were late in notifying patients, and the FDA did not take action immediately when they began to get reports," said Murray.

As early as 2008 and 2009, there were outbreaks that made 70 ill and killed 15 due to issues related to the duodenoscope. A U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention official mailed the FDA in 2009, clarifying that "there is a real chance that these issues might be more widespread" and recommended that the agency should put out "some type of educational alert" about the problem in cleaning the device.

"We appreciate the report from Sen. Murray and will carefully consider its recommendations, many of which FDA is already taking steps to address," said FDA spokeswoman Deborah Kotz, according to the New York Times. "We agree with the senator that a broader approach to understanding how well duodenoscope devices work in real-time use is critical to public health."

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