One hundred seventy-nine patients at UCLA Ronald Reagan Medical Center have been told they may have been exposed to a drug-resistant “superbug” during endoscopy procedures that infected seven patients and may have contributed to two deaths.
Patients who may have been infected by the carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE) are being offered home testing kits that would be analyzed by the hospital, UCLA officials said. The exposures occurred between October 2014 and January 2015 during which a specialized endoscope is inserted down the throat to diagnose and treat pancreatic and bile duct diseases, Reuters reports. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned that the design of the endoscopes may hinder proper cleaning and disinfection, the FDA warned on Thursday.
Exposures from this type of medical equipment have been reported across the country in recent years, including cases in Seattle, Pittsburgh, and Chicago. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has said it was working with other government agencies and the manufacturers of the endoscopes to minimize risks to patients. The UCLA hospital system had been sterilizing the devices according to the manufacturer’s standards, but has now adopted a more rigorous process, Reuters reports.
“The two scopes involved with the infection were immediately removed, and UCLA is now utilizing a decontamination process that goes above and beyond manufacturer and national standards,” the hospital said in the statement. UCLA said both scopes would be returned to the manufacturer. Olympus Corp, Fujifilm, and Pentax are the three major manufacturers of the endoscopes.
The Los Angeles Times reported that UCLA became aware of the infections late last month and immediately reported this to the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services and the California Department of Public Health. Superbug infections are difficult to treat because some of the bacteria have become resistant to antibiotics. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said the germs could contribute to death in up to 50 percent of infected patients. According to Reuters, so-called superbugs have been linked to 23,000 deaths and 2 million illnesses every year in the United States, and up to $20 billion in direct healthcare costs.