UCLA reported earlier this week that a total of 179 patients at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center were exposed to a potentially deadly “superbug” on contaminated medical instruments.
All of the patients were exposed to antibiotic-resistant carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae, or CRE, during endoscopic procedures between October and January, with seven patients getting infected. At the moment, the university believes the superbug has already resulted in two deaths.
UCLA is sending free home-testing kits to those infected as CRE is estimated to be fatal in up to half of seriously infected patients.
CRE infections affect the lungs or bladder, leading to a combination of fever, coughing, and chills.
The devices in question, specialized endoscopes, which are inserted into the patients’ throats, are believed to be the bacteria-carrying culprit, and have been demolished. UCLA has upped its decontamination procedures as a direct result of this tragic event.
Dale Tate, a University of California, Los Angeles spokeswoman, said, “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.”
Unfortunately, the complete decontamination of medical instruments by manufacturers is extremely tough because of all the minuscule nooks and crannies on devices. Because of this, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration have encouraged doctors to implore their own cleaning process before using certain devices.
For example, thermal decontamination is the use of heat to vaporize chemical contaminants that will readily convert from a liquid to a gas in the presence of heat. Utilizing this cleaning process on top of manufacturer cleaning could lead to better sterilization practices.
“This bacteria is emerging in the U.S. and it’s associated with a high mortality rate,” Dr. Alex Kallen, an epidemiologist in CDC’s Division of Healthcare Quality Promotion, told the LA Times. “We don’t want this circulating anywhere in the community.”