Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, a large teaching hospital in Los Angeles, recently reported that several patients might have been exposed to a superbug carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae or CRE during endoscopy procedures. The exposure has claimed two lives and five others are infected.
The hospital has contacted 179 patients who had endoscopic procedures between October 3, and January 28. The Medical Center is offering home tests to susceptible patients to screen for the bacteria. The producer is usually carried to diagnose and treat bile and pancreatic duct diseases.
The hospital official said that an internal investigation in late January helped determine that CRE may have been transmitted by two of seven scopes being used at the hospital. All these endoscopes are made by Olympus Medical Systems Group.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention statistics, the CRE exposure can kill up to half of the infected patients.
Benjamin Schwartz, of the Department of Public Health at the Los Angeles County, emphasized that the CRE outbreak is not a public health threat in the County.
The American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy estimates more than half a million duodenoscope procedures every year in the U.S., of which less than 100 cases get infected with the CRE bacteria.
Many hospitals across the country have reported CRE exposures in recent years, resulting from the same type of medical equipment. The U.S. FDA has been working with medical equipment manufacturers and other government agencies to minimize risks.
The problem is caused because of difficulty cleaning a part of the scope, the elevator, because of many small moving parts containing microscopic crevices. Such micro-structures may not be reached with a brush, leaving organic debris and residual body fluids, even after cleansing and disinfection. If these fluids contain microbial contamination, likelihood of exposure increases in subsequent procedures.