First, a prominent Los Angeles health system confirmed that deadly bacteria from an infected medical scope had sickened seven patients, including two who died.
A few weeks later, another hospital said four of its patients had been infected by the superbug Carbapenem-Resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE), a bacteria that is difficult to treat because it is resistant to most commonly used antibiotics. CRE are an increasing public health problem throughout the world.
Patients who contracted CRE had undergone a procedure known as ERCP, or endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography. This type of procedure requires a specialized scope called a duodenoscope. The duodenoscope is not the same instrument used in colonoscopies, esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD), endoscopic ultrasound procedures or bronchoscopies.
While patients who have had or who are scheduled for an ERCP may be understandably concerned, the benefits to the exam far outweigh the risks, said Lawrence Martinelli, MD, FACP, FIDSA, chief medical informatics officer and medical director, case management/utilization review,
Covenant Health in Lubbock, Texas. To date, no CRE exposures in patients who have undergone ERCP have been identified at St. Joseph Health or Covenant Health.
"The risk to the general population is low," Dr. Martinelli said. "ERCP is a life-saving procedure that is performed safely at thousands of hospitals across the United States every day, and Covenant Health and St. Joseph Health hospitals will continue to perform these important procedures, used to treat problems of the bile and pancreatic ducts."
Anyone with concerns or questions should speak to his or her physician, Dr. Martinelli said.
"I encourage patients who have recently undergone or are scheduled for these procedures to discuss any concerns with their physician. This "superbug" is uncommon and hospitals across the country are taking appropriate precautions. In addition, we do not want to have this issue distract us from other more common, severe health issues, such as influenza, that affect many more people."
For more information about Covenant Health, click here. For more information about Dr. Martinelli, click