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Update on superbug infections: materially understated

Many of our readers across Maricopa County and Arizona likely remember with crystal clarity -- and perhaps unchecked horror -- news that began surfacing in 2012 regarding the outbreak in some hospitals in the United States and abroad of a so-called "superbug."

That bacteria -- which included the super-resistant strain known widely by its shorthand designation of CRE -- was traced to tainted medical scopes known as duodenoscopes, which are often used in the diagnosis and treatment of digestive-tract disorders.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration stated last year that the scopes were tied to 142 hospital-acquired infections across the country.

Unfortunately, that figure was greatly understated.

A U.S. Senate committee report released last week updates earlier information, and its revised figure on scope-related infections paints a far more troubling picture as to the magnitude of the infection problem. New data now indicate that at least 250 people in the United States were infected by scope-transmitted superbugs.

A corollary finding of the Senate report indicates that the FDA and Olympus Corporation (the primary scope manufacturer) weren't exactly on their "A" games when it came to warning the medical industry and general public about the scope-bacteria link and grave dangers associated with it. A CBS News article on the topic cites "a 17-month delay that allowed the problem to persist."

The CRE outbreaks were far from confined, being confirmed at medical facilities in 10 states across the country, spanning California to Florida. The Senate report did not mention any Arizona hospitals where infections were noted.

The scopes are used in hundreds of thousands of procedures annually in American hospitals.

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