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Huge Array of Medical Scopes Pose Potential Threat Despite Cleaning

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Published on : Aug 03, 2015

Doctors have reported several infections caused by medical scopes that are used to examine patients. For instance, colonoscopies led to 14 lung infections, which turned fatal for at least seven patients. In yet another episode a scope used for examining the bladder infected three patients. This medical device was returned to the manufacturer, who reported “foreign substances” on the equipment despite cleaning. The third outbreak reported an infection caused due to lethal bacteria called clostridium difficile.
These outbreaks have shed light on the fact that the risk of infections from scopes is far greater than that from specialized devices. Most regulators have pinned the blame on the complex design of the device, duodenoscope, which is exceptionally difficult to clean.

In the past three years, patients have been exposed to bacteria, dried blood, and human tissue through several scopes that are used to determine the condition of the colon, the lungs, the stomach, and the bladder. Infection experts have warned doctors through mediums such as research papers and speeches that scopes can remain unclean despite cleaning them, but only in vain. 

A Minneapolis epidemiologist and consultant, Cori Ofstead did warn infection control professionals that there were remnants of contaminations on cleaned scopes. A professor at the University of Manitoba, Michelle Alfa also found traces of protein and blood on scopes at a hospital in Canada. Out of the scopes in the Canadian hospital 9% of gastroscopes, 7% of colonoscopies, and 4% of bronchoscopes had traces of infectious material on them.