Lieu Calls on House Committee To Investigate Superbug Outbreak

February 24, 2015
In The News

On Monday, Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) sent a letter to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, urging Congress to investigate efforts by FDA and medical device manufacturers to prevent further deaths and infections related to a recent drug-resistant superbug outbreak in California, the Los Angeles Timesreports, (Terhune, Los Angeles Times, 2/23).

Background

Last week, UCLA's Ronald Reagan Medical Center began notifying 179 patients who may have been exposed to Carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae, or CRE, from contaminated medical endoscopes.

UCLA said that seven patients had been infected and that two patient deaths had been linked to the bacteria.

Following the announcement of the superbug, FDA issued a warning about medical endoscopes, stating that the device's design might make it difficult to "clean, disinfect and sterilize reusable devices." However, the agency said it is not safe for hospitals to stop using the devices because there are no viable alternatives (California Healthline, 2/23).

Details of Letter

In the letter, Lieu called on the committee -- which oversees FDA -- to hold a hearing on the issue (AP/U-T San Diego, 2/23).

Lieu, who is on the committee, said the outbreak has "national security ramifications," noting that President Obama in September 2014 issued an executive order, making efforts to combat antibiotic-resistant bacteria a national security priority.

He wrote, "While federal agencies such as [CDC] are combating superbugs, the current recommended sterilization procedures would continue to result in superbug outbreaks and deaths" (Los Angeles Times, 2/23).

North Carolina Hospital Confirms CRE Cases

In related news, a North Carolina hospital has reported that several patients have been infected with CRE, Modern Healthcare reports. However, unlike the cases at UCLA, the infections have not been linked to the use of endoscopes.

Kevin McCarthy -- a spokesperson at Carolinas Medical Center-Mercy, where the patients were treated -- said it is unclear how the patients contracted CRE, noting that all of the hospital's medical endoscopes have tested negative for the bacteria (Ross Johnson, Modern Healthcare, 2/23).

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