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Bacteria may linger in reusable scopes, even after disinfection

Superbugs are one of the greatest medical scares of our time. The battle against them really started to take off in 2015. That's when federal regulators began investigating outbreaks associated with the use of reusable duodenoscopes. At least 35 deaths are believed to have been caused by the transmission of the bug through use of the devices.

Not surprisingly, many of those deaths have sparked personal injury claims. In these instances, the issue hasn't necessarily been indications of medical malpractice. Rather, the claims more often targeted the manufacturers of the medical devices, and now it appears that there may be even more problems ahead.

According to a study conducted over the span of seven months, researchers were able to show that scopes that had gone through repeated uses often tested positive for bacterial growth. This is despite them being rigorously cleaned according to current standards or going through those steps and additional protocols.

In all, 20 scopes were tested. Some were the type used to go down the esophagus. Others were colonoscopes and used to go up through the rectum. More than half of them had bacteria evident after being disinfected. At the end of the study, 17 of them were returned to the manufacturer because they had developed serious defects.

The nature of the defects included scratches and dents in scope ends. Some interior channels in the devices displayed stains, residual fluid and debris after cleaning. Some images of channel interiors show lining material hanging down.

This study wasn't very large, and fortunately, the types of bacteria found aren't the drug-resistant superbugs that can kill. However, experts who have looked at the results say they should still prompt doctors, hospitals and regulators to start paying closer attention to the issue as it might relate to other types of scopes in use across the country.

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