Bronchoscope-Related “Superbug” Infections

Published:August 14, 2019DOI:
      Several recent cases associating cleaned and high-level disinfected duodenoscopes with outbreaks of carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE) and related multidrug-resistant organisms (MDROs) may cause bronchoscopists, pulmonologists, and other stakeholders to inquire about the effectiveness of today’s practices for reprocessing flexible bronchoscopes. The primary objectives of this study were to address this question and investigate the risk of bronchoscopes transmitting infections of CRE and related MDROs. The published literature and the US Food and Drug Administration’s medical device database of adverse events were searched beginning in 2012, when endoscopy first emerged as a recognized risk factor for transmission of CRE. The Internet was also searched during this same time frame to identify other relevant cases. Several cases associating reprocessed bronchoscopes with infections of CRE or a related MDRO were identified. This study’s findings suggest that bronchoscopes may pose an underrecognized potential for transmission of CRE and related MDROs, warranting greater public awareness, enhanced preventive measures, and updated reprocessing guidance. This study’s data also suggest that the cleaning and high-level disinfection of bronchoscopes performed in accordance with published guidelines and manufacturer instructions may not always be sufficiently effective to eliminate this risk. Several factors were identified that can adversely affect a bronchoscope’s reprocessing and pose a risk of transmission of these multidrug-resistant bacteria, including use of a damaged or inadequately serviced bronchoscope, and formation of an inaccessible biofilm. Recommendations are provided to improve the safety of flexible bronchoscopes, including supplementing their reprocessing with an enhanced measure such as sterilization when warranted, and strict adherence to a periodic servicing and maintenance schedule consistent with the bronchoscope manufacturer’s instructions.

      Key Words


      AER (automated endoscope reprocessor), CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), CRE (carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae), FDA (US Food and Drug Administration), HLD (high-level disinfection), MAUDE (Manufacturer and User Facility Device Experience Database), MDRO (multidrug-resistant organism)
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