Lawmaker calls for Oversight hearings on 'superbug' deaths

February 23, 2015
In The News

Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), is calling on the House Oversight Committee to hold hearings on a "superbug" that has led to two deaths at a hospital in his district. 

Lieu wrote in a letter to Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) and ranking member Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) that the "superbug" has "both health and national security risks."

Officials at UCLA Ronald Reagan Medical Center in Los Angeles announced last week that a drug-resistant bacteria, known as CRE, had led to two deaths and that 179 people had potentially been exposed. At least seven people have been infected.

On Sunday, another set of cases was announced in Charlotte, N.C. Officials at the Carolinas Healthcare System said that three people had acquired the bacteria at a hospital there this year. 

The outbreak is linked to an instrument known as a duodenoscope, a tube that is threaded through the mouth into the stomach as part of medical procedures. The bacteria spreads when the devices are not completely cleaned.

The hospital has now stepped up its decontamination process beyond the standard recommendation. 

Lieu warns that the FDA recommendations need to be examined. 

"The current design of the device and current FDA-approved sterilization procedures have resulted in, and will continue to result in, CRE outbreaks and deaths," he writes. 

He points to an executive order from President Obama last year saying that "combating antibiotic-resistant bacteria is a national security priority."

The FDA issued a warning on Thursday that thorough cleaning "may not entirely eliminate" the bacteria and said it is monitoring the situation. 

Dr. William Maisel, chief scientist at the FDA's device center, said in a blog post Monday that the agency continues to "evaluate alternative cleaning protocols, test antibiotic-resistant organisms to assess their susceptibility to high-level disinfectants and explore additional strategies to reduce the risk of infections."

Issues: