In the late 1970s, “Super Bug” was a single-player Atari racing game. Nowadays, the generally understood meaning of superbugs has morphed from pixilated Volkswagen Beetles to terrifying antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria. Although the discovery of antibiotics was one of the most important medical milestones of the twentieth century, it has come to light that they must be used only when absolutely necessary because bacteria have the ability to change in ways that reduce or eliminate the effectiveness of many antibiotics. Given this resistance, the bacteria survive and continue to multiply, rendering the antibiotic largely useless.
One of the superbugs recently in the news is carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE). Most often found in hospitals and nursing homes, CRE has been spread to patients through medical equipment that is not thoroughly sanitized or disinfected between uses. Endoscopes are the most common piece of medical equipment for CRE transmittance, though catheters and ventilators have also been implicated. CRE infections are very difficult to treat, with one report claiming a 50 percent fatality rate in exposed patients.
Occurrences of the CRE superbug have been reported across the country, with many being traced to a particular type of endoscope used on more than half a million people in the U.S. every year. Known as the ERCP duodenoscope and made by Olympus Corp of the Americas, investigators have determined that the instrument’s design makes it hard to clean. This allows bacteria to thrive – and to be passed on to other patients. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued an advisory in February 2015 warning that even when Olympus’s cleaning instructions were followed, complete disinfection was extremely difficult. The advisory specifically noted the device’s complex design and tiny parts. Since 2012, the FDA has identified 10 CRE outbreaks, and 7 of them involved Olympus scopes.
When it comes to antibiotic-resistant drugs, there are a few ways you can help yourself:
- Take antibiotics only as prescribed and directed.
- Ask your medical caregivers to explain the risks and benefits before agreeing to any procedure.
- Always wash your hands, especially after using the bathroom or preparing food, and request that your medical professionals do the same.
- Cover all cuts and scrapes with bandages.
If you or someone you know has contracted a superbug following a medical procedure or stay in a nursing home, the Macon, GA-based Mann Law Firm can help. We have successfully represented victims throughout Georgia who have been harmed by medical malpractice and medical product negligence. For over 50 years, we have been helping people put their lives back on track. For advice on how to proceed next or if you have any questions about this topic, call (478) 742-3381 or submit our online form.