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Celiac disease warning about contaminated endoscopy scopes

Lana Bandoim's picture

Doctors often recommend endoscopies for patients who may have celiac disease or gluten sensitivities. However, a recent superbug scare has made some patients hesitate to have the procedure. Staff used contaminated endoscopes at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center and exposed 179 patients to deadly carbapenem resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE).


Although the scopes used at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center were sterilized, deadly bacteria still became trapped in the devices and infected patients. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a warning about ERCP endoscopes and stated that the design of the product made cleaning difficult. The duodenoscope, a specific type of endoscope involved in the superbug scare, had narrow channels that trapped bacteria.

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Endoscopies are often used as part of the diagnosis and healing process. They are a common recommendation from medical professionals for celiac disease patients, but they are also used for patients who have heartburn, GERD, cancer and other conditions. The outbreak at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center is not the first case of contaminated endoscopes. Carbapenem resistant Enterobacteriaceae contamination was also found at the Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle, and 11 people died.

What can you do to have a safer endoscopic procedure? The key is to find doctors who are using sterile and disposable products. The ERCP endoscopes are not disposable, so they have to be cleaned after each patient. However, there are better alternatives that reduce the risk of bacterial contamination. You may want to look for the disposable endosheath, a one-time use barrier that can be placed over an endoscope, that can be thrown away after a procedure. A study from St. James's University Hospital reveals that disposable sheaths can be used successfully in out-patient settings. Another study from the Department of Anesthesiology at Detroit Medical Center found that endosheaths were cost-effective and reduced turnover times.

Read more about celiac disease:
Doctors ignore proper celiac disease diagnosis and care
Celiac disease tripled in children in last 20 years