(Reuters) — A 76-year-old man infected with a drug-resistant “superbug” at a Los Angeles hospital has sued the manufacturer of a medical device that allegedly caused the illness in the 5th lawsuit related to the bacterial outbreak at the facility, his attorney said yesterday.
Plaintiff Domingo Gomez, who was infected by a contaminated device during an endoscopy at UCLA Ronald Reagan Medical Center, suffered significant harm from the infection, according to his lawsuit filed in Los Angeles Superior Court.
Gomez’ attorney, Peter Kaufman, declined in a phone interview to release more information about the man’s condition or say why he initially went to the large teaching hospital.
UCLA Ronald Reagan Medical Center officials have acknowledged that 7 people were infected with carbapenem-resistant enterobacteria, or CRE, during endoscopies at the hospital between Oct. 3, 2014, and Jan. 28 and that 2 of them later died.
Kaufman said his firm has filed lawsuits against Olympus (TYO:7733), the manufacturer of the endoscope device, in 5 of those cases, including on behalf of Gomez. He said he was unaware of any other suits tied to the outbreak at UCLA Ronald Reagan Medical Center.
The complex design of the endoscopes, which are used to examine a patient’s digestive tract, linked to the California outbreak may hinder proper cleaning, the FDA has warned.
Hospital officials have said that, aside from the 7 cases of confirmed infections, 172 former patients were informed they may have been exposed to the superbug and they were offered home test kits.
No new infections have been discovered among that group, but 4 former patients were determined to be carriers of the disease, which does not put them at immediate risk, said Dale Tate, a spokeswoman for UCLA Ronald Reagan Medical Center.
A spokesman for Olympus declined to comment on the lawsuit.
Earlier this month, the widow of a patient who died after being infected with E. coli by an Olympus endoscope sued Seattle’s Virginia Mason Medical Center and the company for wrongful death. And a top Los Angeles hospital, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, said in March that 4 patients had been infected with bacteria from a contaminated scope and 67 more were at risk. Across the country in Connecticut, Hartford Hospital has also reported a similar outbreak involving at least 5 infections and more than 280 potential exposures.
Between 2013 and 2014, the FDA said it received reports of 135 possible microbial transmission from reprocessed duodenoscopes. The federal safety watchdog has been under pressure to review current protocol of sterilizing the instruments after a string of superbug outbreaks at hospitals across the country.
Although the FDA has said Olympus put its TJF-Q180V duodenoscope on the market without the agency’s clearance, Olympus claims that, based on the FDA’s policy, a modified version of its previously approved scope did not require a new marketing approval.