A “superbug” resistant to antibiotics has infected seven patients at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, and may have contributed to the deaths of two of these patients, according to media reports. More than 160 others were exposed to carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae through contaminated medical scopes used during endoscopic procedures that took place at the medical center between October and January. The patients are being offered free home testing kits that would be analyzed at UCLA.
An internal investigation determined that CRE bacteria may have been transmitted during a procedure that uses this specialized scope to diagnose and treat pancreaticobiliary diseases, according to a UCLA Health System news release.
“We notified all patients who had this type of procedure, and we were using seven different scopes,” UCLA spokeswoman Dale Tate said in an ABC News article. “Only two of them were found to be infected. In an abundance of caution, we notified everybody.”
The two scopes involved with the infection were removed and UCLA is using a decontamination process “that goes above and beyond manufacturer and national standards,” according to the release. Both the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services and the California Department of Public Health were notified as soon as the bacteria were detected.
CRE comprises a family of bacteria that can contribute to death in up to half of seriously infected patients, according to the CDC. About 4% of U.S. hospitals had at least one patient with a CRE infection during the first half of 2012. About 18% of long-term acute care hospitals had one, and 42 states report they had at least one patient test positive for one type of CRE.
In healthcare settings, CRE are usually transmitted from person to person via the hands of healthcare personnel or contaminated medical equipment. The bacteria can be found in stool or wounds. In addition to spreading among people, CRE easily spread their antibiotic resistance to other kinds of germs, making those potentially untreatable as well.
According to the CDC, CRE can cause infections in almost any part body including bloodstream infections, ventilator-associated pneumonia, and intra-abdominal abscesses. Healthcare providers can protect patients from CRE by prescribing antibiotics wisely; following contact precautions and hand hygiene recommendations when treating patients with CRE; dedicating rooms, staff and equipment to patients with CRE; and removing temporary medical devices such as catheters and ventilators from patients as soon as possible.
For more information on CRE prevention and treatment, visit www.CDC.gov.