Yet another Southern California hospital is investigating a potential superbug outbreak tied to tainted Olympus duodenoscopes. Huntington Memorial Hospital in Pasadena notified health authorities after several patients contracted a highly resistant strain of pseudomonas bacteria after undergoing endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP).

According to Paula Verrette, senior vice president and chief medical officer for quality and physician services at Huntington Memorial Hospital:

“The link between this bacteria, Pseudomonas, which is a community-acquired bacteria found prevalently outside the hospital setting, has not yet been traced to a scope.  We are still investigating the potential link and have engaged two nationally renowned medical research facilities for assistance.”

A flaw in the design of these duodenoscopes allows deadly bacteria to be trapped inside the reusable device and transferred to any number of future patients.

So far, the hospital has not released the number of patients who have been affected but has notified those who may have been exposed.

This is far from the first outbreak linked to the ERCP procedure and tainted duodenoscopes and Olympus is already facing several lawsuits on behalf of infected victims and their families.

What is a Pseudomonas infection and where does it occur?

Pseudomonas infection is most commonly caused by the Pseudomonas aeruginosa strain of the bacteria. It is responsible for 8% of all healthcare-associated infections reported to the CDC.

Infections can develop in healthy people, however the most dangerous infections typically occur in healthcare settings. A serious pseudomonas infection in the GI tract – like the antibacterial resistant strain involved in the current Huntington Memorial Hospital Outbreak – can lead to severe illness and even death.

Pseudomonas is one of the main causes of pneumonia in patients who are on ventilators but can cause serious infections in many other areas of the body, including:

  • Respiratory tract (eg, pneumonia)
  • Bloodstream (bacteremia)
  • Heart ( endocarditis)
  • CNS (eg, meningitis, brain abscess)
  • Ear (eg, otitis externa and media)
  • Eye (eg, bacterial keratitis, endophthalmitis)
  • Bones and joints (eg, osteomyelitis)
  • GI tract (eg, diarrhea, enteritis, enterocolitis)
  • Urinary tract
  • Skin (eg, ecthyma gangrenosum)

Certain strains of Pseudomonas aeruginosa have been found to be resistant to multiple or all antibiotics including aminoglycosides, cephalosporins, fluoroquinolones, and carbapenems.

The CDC has labeled antibacterial resistant pseudomonas a serious threat to public health and estimates that it causes over 51,000 healthcare associated infections occur in the U.S. each year, leading to over 440 deaths annually.

What are the symptoms of a Pseudomonas superbug infection?

A serious Pseudomonas infection – especially one acquired during an ERCP procedure, can cause symptoms such as high fever, chills, fatigue, confusion, and shock. GI tract infections may also cause dehydration, abdominal distention, and peritonitis (inflammation of the inner wall lining of the abdomen). Infections that develop into pneumonia can cause a cough, while infected wounds may produce green-blue pus in or around the infected area.

Depending upon on the site and nature of the infection, here is a more detailed list of symptoms from MedScape:

  • Endocarditis: Fever, murmur, and positive blood culture findings; peripheral stigmata such as Roth spots, Janeway lesions, Osler nodes, splinter hemorrhages, and splenomegaly
  • Pneumonia: Rales, rhonchi, fever, cyanosis, retractions, and hypoxia; occasionally shock; with cystic fibrosis, clubbing, increased anteroposterior (AP) diameter, and malnutrition
  • GI tract: Fever, signs of dehydration, abdominal distention, and signs of peritonitis; physical findings of Shanghai fever
  • Skin and soft tissue infections: Hemorrhagic and necrotic lesions, with surrounding erythema; subcutaneous nodules, deep abscesses, cellulitis, and fasciitis; in burns, black or violaceous discoloration or eschar
  • Skeletal infections: Local tenderness and a decreased range of motion; neurologic deficits
  • Eye infections: Lid edema, conjunctival erythema and chemosis, and severe mucopurulent discharge
  • Malignant otitis externa: Erythematous, swollen, and inflamed external auditory canal; local lymphadenopathy
  • Bacteremia: Fever, tachypnea, and tachycardia; hypotension and shock; jaundice

How is it Diagnosed?

Doctors can run a serious of tests and procedures to diagnose Pseudomonas infection including; a Complete blood count, blood cultures, urinalysis, chest radiography, renal ultrasound, as well as a number of others depending on circumstance.

What do I do If I was exposed?

If you or a loved one have undergone an ERCP procedure at Huntington Memorial Hospital or any other hospital – even if you haven’t developed symptoms – contact your healthcare provider to make sure you weren’t exposed.

If you have been infected, speak with a Pseudomonas Superbug attorney. Lawsuits have been filed against Olympus in other cases and you may be able to hold them responsible. Olympus Corp has been warned repeatedly by the FDA and the design of their devices have been labeled as the source of infection in several other cases.  The attorneys at Panish Shea & Boyle filed the first and several subsequent suits against the duodenoscope manufacturer Olympus and have significant experience with high profile cases.  Contact an attorney today for a free case evaluation.