The CDC is considering the possibility of an outbreak after patients at UCLA were exposed to a superbug during endoscopy procedures
A superbug called carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE) has been discovered at Ronald Regan UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles. NBC News and ABC News report that at least seven patients have been affected and two deaths may have been linked to the superbug.
Officials at UCLA have notified over 160 patients to warn that they may have been exposed to it.
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Patients infected by superbug
CRE is resistant to antibiotics and may be deadly. A statement from the university said as many as 169 patients may have been exposed to the superbug during endoscopies between October 2014 and January 2015. The university also said the bug may have contributed to two deaths.
According to ABC, the statement indicates that the superbug may have been transmitted to patients by two of the seven endoscopes UCLA doctors used for procedures to diagnose and treat bile-duct and pancreatic problems. The university said it had sterilized the endoscopes according to the standards set forth by the manufacturers of the scopes.
However, the university is now decontaminating them using a more extensive process that “goes above and beyond the manufacturer and national standards.”
UCLA is offering patients who may have been exposed to CRE during their endoscopies free home-testing kits and free analysis of the kits to determine whether they have been infected with the superbug or not.
Officials concerned about a superbug outbreak
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that CRE can result in the deaths of up to half of patients whose infections become serious. A serious infection is defined as one that enters a patient’s bloodstream.
The agency said the superbug can result in lung or bladder infections, resulting in a fever, chills and coughing. CDC director Dr. Tom Frieden previously called CRE “a nightmare bacteria,” according to NBC. The CDC also states that infections of CRE have been found in all states except Alaska, Idaho and Maine.
UCLA said it has been working with the Los Angeles County Health Dept. since the seven CRE cases were reported. County health officials reportedly visited the site and found “no infection control breaches,” according to a spokesperson for the health department.
Other scopes also cause superbug outbreak
According to NBC, federal and county health officials are still investigating another CRE outbreak related to scopes. The other outbreak affected 32 or more patients at the Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle between 2012 and 2014. News of that outbreak only came out last month.
The case involved the use of infected duodenoscopes. In that case, the manufacturer of the scopes is working with the Food and Drug Administration because officials believe their design could have been a contributing factor because it makes cleaning them difficult.
In a previous report, investigators discovered that it’s possible for some of the scopes to still be contaminated even after the manufacturer’s recommended sterilizing procedures are followed.