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FDA Warns About Infections From Other Medical Scopes


Federal regulators expanded their warnings about medical scopes spreading infections, issuing a new alert last month about contaminated bronchoscopes posing a risk to patients.

The Food and Drug Administration said it was investigating reports that bronchoscopes are causing infections in patients even after the reusable devices were cleaned. This is the same problem that was seen during recent endoscope superbug outbreaks.

The agency said no deaths from tainted bronchoscopes have been reported thus far, and it's still evaluating what factors contributed to the infections. Bronchoscopes are used to diagnose and treat problems in the airway or lungs.

The government's move marks a new area of concern and confirms fears from infection experts that the risk goes beyond one type of scope.

Outbreaks of antibiotic-resistant bacteria at hospitals in Los Angeles, Seattle, Pittsburgh and other cities have sickened dozens of patients treated with gastrointestinal duodenoscopes. At UCLA's Ronald Reagan Medical Center, three patients died. The Justice Department is investigating those outbreaks and issued subpoenas to scope makers this year.

At this time, the FDA said, the risk of infection from bronchoscopes "appears to be lower" than the risk posed by duodenoscopes.

"We are proactively investigating to determine if additional steps should be taken," the FDA stated.

As with duodenoscopes, the agency took no action to pull bronchoscopes off the market or limit their use, noting that the benefits outweigh the risks for most patients.

Bronchoscopes are thin, lighted tubes threaded through the nose or mouth to allow a doctor to examine a patient's throat, larynx, trachea and lungs. About 500,000 bronchoscopy procedures are performed annually in the U.S.

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