- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 6, 2002

BALTIMORE (AP) Doctors at Johns Hopkins Hospital worked yesterday to learn whether a recalled medical device was responsible for the deaths of two patients, a task a hospital spokesman admitted would be difficult.
Certified letters have been mailed to 415 patients who may have been examined with contaminated bronchoscopes, asking them to call their doctors if they experience symptoms such as fever, coughing, phlegm or shortness of breath.
One hundred of those patients, many suffering from cystic fibrosis, AIDS or recent lung transplants, have tested positive for the Pseudomonas bacteria, which may have been spread by the faulty bronchoscopes. Two patients examined by the devices at Hopkins have died, but doctors were still trying to determine if the defective bronchoscopes were responsible.
"That's going to take some more detective work. … To determine exactly where they became infected is no easy task, especially in this population of patients who are extremely ill with conditions that are conducive to bacterial and viral infections," said Johns Hopkins spokesman Gary Stephenson.
He admitted doctors may not be able to say definitively how the two patients who died were infected.
"It's going to come down to good clinical judgment on the part of our pulmonologists. It is a difficult task," Mr. Stephenson said.
On Monday, federal officials said the manufacturer of the bronchoscope waited two months to begin recalling the defective equipment.
Melville, N.Y.-based Olympus makes the bronchoscopes, which are used to inspect a patient's lungs and take tissue samples. In recall letters, Olympus described the defective instruments as having a loose valve that can trap bacteria.
Dr. William Jarvis of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Monday that the company didn't let the Food and Drug Administration know of the defective devices until December.

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