A large Los Angeles public hospital has notified scores of patients they were possibly exposed to a drug-resistant bacteria 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 (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 during procedures in which a specialized endoscope is inserted down the throat to diagnose and treat pancreatic and bile duct diseases.
Hospitals across the United States have reported exposures from the same type of medical equipment in recent years, and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has said it was working with other government agencies and manufacturers of the scopes to minimize risks to patients.
The hospital system said it had been sterilizing the scopes according to the manufacturer's standards but was now using a more rigorous process.
The two scopes involved with the infection were immediately removed, and UCLA is now utilizing a decontamination process that goes above a and beyond manufacturer and national standards, it said in the statement.
A UCLA spokeswoman, Roxanne Moster, said both scopes in question, which the hospital started using in June 2014, have been set aside permanently and will be returned to the manufacturer.
The condition and prognosis of the seven patients known to have been infected at Ronald Reagan Medical Center was not disclosed, nor were the circumstances of the two deaths in which CRE infection may have been a contributing factor.
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, it added.
Superbug infections are difficult to treat because some of the bacteria have become resistant to antibiotics, and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the germs could contribute to death in up to 50 percent of infected patients.