Seven patients — including two who died — have been infected with an antibiotic-resistant and potential deadly “superbug” likely transmitted by contaminated medical instruments at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, hospital officials said.
As many as 179 patients may have been infected by the superbug known as Carbapenem-Resistant Enterobacteriaceae, or CRE, the hospital said in a statement Wednesday.
The hospital said the patients may have been infected during “complex endoscopic procedures” during the diagnosis and treatment of pancreatic and bile-duct problems between October 2014 and January 2015. It said the patients have been offered free home testing kits that will be analyzed by the hospital to determine if they have been infected.
The statement said the medical center sterilized the scopes according to instructions from the manufacturer, but that an internal investigation found that the bacteria may have nonetheless been transmitted and “may have been a contributing factor in the death of two patients.”
Similar outbreaks of CRE, which are resistant to most known antibiotics, have been reported around the nation, according to the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
According to one estimate, the CDC says, the “superbug” can lead to death in up to half of seriously infected patients.
The CDC notes that healthy people usually do not get CRE infections. The most vulnerable, it says, are patients in hospitals and nursing homes, and on ventilators or using catheters.
Since 2012, there have been about a half-dozen outbreaks nationwide, reaching as many as 150 patients, according to the Los Angeles Times, which first reported the UCLA incidents.
One outbreak occurred in Illinois in 2013. Dozens of patients were exposed to CRE, with some cases apparently linked to a tainted endoscope used at a hospital, the Associated Press reports.
In Seattle, a “superbug” outbreak spread by contaminated medical scopes infected at least 32 patients at Virginia Mason Medical Center between 2012 and 2014, The Seattle Times reports. Eleven of the patients died, although it is unclear what role, if any, the infections played, the newspaper says, citing doctors.