Seven patients at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center were infected by a potentially deadly drug-resistant “superbug,” and two of those people infected died Wednesday, UCLA authorities reportedly said. Nearly 180 patients were exposed to the bacteria through contaminated medical instruments.
The patients were reportedly exposed to Carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE) during endoscopic procedures between October 2014 and January 2015, Dale Tate, a spokeswoman for the University of California said, according to The Associated Press. UCLA authorities said that they discovered the presence of the bacteria in January while conducting tests on a patient, adding that the bacteria may have been a “contributing factor” in the deaths of the two patients, The Los Angeles Times reported.
An internal investigation reportedly determined that the bacteria may have been transmitted during the procedure, which involves the use of a specialized scope to diagnose and treat disorders of the bile ducts, gall bladder or pancreas, Roxanne Yamaguchi Moster, a UCLA Health Systems spokeswoman, said, according to Fox 8 News.
"We notified all patients who had this type of procedure, and we were using seven different scopes. Only two of them were found to be infected. In an abundance of caution, we notified everybody," Tate reportedly said. “The two scopes involved with the infection were immediately removed and UCLA is now utilizing a decontamination process that goes above and beyond the manufacturer and national standards.”
State and federal officials are reportedly investigating the deaths at UCLA and are trying to find a way to prevent the further spread of infection.
The latest outbreak comes days after a similar one at the Virginia Mason Medical Center, a Seattle hospital, in January, when bacteria transmitted through endoscopes infected at least 35 patients. Although 11 people also died, it was not confirmed whether the infection played a role in their deaths.
In 2013, an outbreak in Illinois had exposed dozens of people to CRE. Authorities said that some cases were linked to a tainted endoscope that was used at the Advocate Lutheran General Hospital, which reportedly improved its sterilization procedures in response to the infections. No one died in the outbreak.
“These outbreaks at UCLA and other hospitals could collectively be the most significant instance of disease transmission ever linked to a contaminated reusable medical instrument,” Lawrence Muscarella, a hospital-safety consultant and expert on endoscopes in Montgomeryville, Pennsylvania, said on Wednesday, according to the LA Times.