There are more than 200 people who might have been exposed to a deadly superbug detected at a Los Angeles hospital. Up until now, two patients lost their lives and other five were tested positive for the bug. More than 180 people could have been exposed.
This superbug is called CRE or carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae and was apparently detected on endoscopes used for ERCP (or endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography) procedures. These endoscopic interventions are used to treat various digestive conditions.
The outbreak took place at the UCLA Ronald Reagan Medical Center at the end of January. This week, 180 people that visited the hospital for ERCP procedures between October 2014 and January 2015 were notified that they might have been exposed to this potentially deadly virus.
The CRE bacteria have a mortality rate of 40%. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) describes this superbug as being part of a “family of germs that are difficult to treat because they have high levels of resistance to antibiotics”.
CDC officials added that not everyone can get infected with this bacterium. Healthy people have a very small chance of getting infected. The risk group consists of hospital patients, people in nursing homes or other healthcare facilities as these are the people who need devices like ventilators (also known as breathing machines), urinary (bladder) or intravenous catheters or are prescribed antibiotics for a long period of time.
Once this bacterium enters the bloodstream, it can kill between 40 and 50% of the infected patients. The ERCP is used annually on approximately 500,000 patients. One of its benefits is being a minimally invasive procedure.
The duodenoscope used in such an intervention is, however, hard to clean. One of its components is an “elevator channel” that allows the device to bend and enter narrow spaces. It also permits the attachment of catheters and guide wires. This component might be the issue, as it permits bacteria to gather up and multiply.
UCLA says the instruments were sterilized according to manufacturer instructions and that once the infected cases were detected, they switched to an even more powerful cleaning method.
The FDA is now collaborating with duodenoscope manufacturers and other government departments in order to find solution that can help lower the risk of such infections.
Image Source: UCLA Health