A large Los Angeles teaching hospital has told scores of patients they were possibly exposed to a drug-resistant bacterial “superbug” during endoscopy procedures that infected seven patients and may have contributed to two deaths.
The 179 patients who may have been infected by the carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae, or CRE, are being offered home testing kits that would be analyzed by the University of California, Los Angeles, hospital system, UCLA officials said.
The possible exposures occurred at the UCLA Ronald Reagan Medical Center between October and January.
Hospitals across the United States have reported exposures from the same type of medical equipment in recent years, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has said it was working with other government agencies and scope manufacturers to minimize risks to patients.
The UCLA hospital system said it had been sterilizing the scopes according to the manufacturer’s standards, but was now using a more rigorous process.
Superbug infections are difficult to treat because some of the bacteria have become resistant to antibiotics, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the germs could contribute to death in up to 50 percent of infected patients.
The complex design of the endoscopes linked to the California outbreak, known as duodenoscopes, may hinder proper cleaning, the FDA warned on Thursday.