Hundreds of Hartford Hospital patients possibly exposed to drug-resistant E. coli

HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — Hartford Hospital officials say nearly 300 patients may have been exposed to a drug-resistant form of E. coli, Extended Spectrum Beta-lactamase E. coli (ESBL).

Officials say there is a defect in their duodenoscopes, a camera that is inserted into the throat and down into bile ducts. Dr. Rocco Orlando of Hartford Hospital says the defect makes newest design of the scope difficult to disinfect.

“In hindsight it makes it somewhere between very difficult and nearly impossible to clean,” he said.

These same duodenoscopes have been used around the country, and at the UCLA Medical Center, doctors say two patients have died from a superbug that lived on the contaminated camera. Dr. Jack Ross says Hartford Hospital’s scopes were only contaminated with E. coli.

“In July we did have one of the exposed that did develop an infection with this organism, but that is one in almost 300 and we have none with this organism since July,” said Ross.

Doctors say this E. coli can be drug resistant; however, antibiotics worked on the patient infected. They expect that if there is a problem down the line, the antibiotics will work on those patients as well. Dr. Orlando says the most important thing is that those at risk come in to get checked, that way you know if you have it and can be treated.

“We need to do testing on them to ensure they may or may not be colonized by this, but they are not at any risk,” said Dr. Orlando. “It’s something they need to be aware of.”

Hartford started using the defective scopes in the fall of 2013. Some of the first positives were noticed in January 2014, and in the fall of 2014 an investigation was started. The hospital has identified the patients possibly exposed and is notifying them.

“We have about 27 right now of the 281 that we have not been able to contact,” said Dr. Ross

Hartford Hospital says it has suspended the use of the scopes in question and will use the older model. They are awaiting direction from the FDA, which says the company that makes the defective scopes, Olympus, never received permission to sell the devices. The FDA says the scopes were sold for three years without proper clearance.

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