LOS ANGELES, Feb. 19 (UPI) -- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration warned a commonly used medical scope may be "extremely difficult" to effectively clean and may facilitate the spread of deadly bacteria.
The FDA said duodenoscopes, commonly used to examine and treat digestive problems caused by cancer and gallstones, can harbor germs even after rigorous cleaning. The scopes are flexible lighted tubes with a hollow channel to insert instruments through the throat for tissue samples and other procedures.
"Meticulously cleaning duodenoscopes prior to high-level disinfection should reduce the risk of transmitting infection, but may not entirely eliminate it," the FDA said. "Some parts of the scopes may be extremely difficult to access, and effective cleaning of all areas of the duodenoscope may not be possible."
The warning to medical providers on Thursday comes after two people died and five others were infected by a drug-resistant superbug at UCLA's Ronald Reagan Medical Center. Officials said some 180 patients at UCLA may have been exposed to carbapenem-resistant enterobacteriaceae from October through January. Others nationwide may have been exposed with the same type of scope.
The FDA said 135 cases of possible bacterial transmission from duodenoscopes have been reported from January 2013 to December 2014.