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UCLA CRE Superbug Outbreak Kills 2, Infects 179

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Los Angeles, CATwo people are dead and 179 potentially infected with a deadly superbug found at a UCLA medical center. According to a report by Frontline, the antibiotic resistant superbug outbreak took place at Ronald Reagan Medical Center from October 2014 to January 2015.

It is believed that tainted medical scopes, called duodenoscopes, may have been the source of human exposure to the bug, a hospital spokesperson told Frontline. Seven people are confirmed to have been infected including the two who died, said spokeswoman Elaine Schmidt.

Many of the people who may have been exposed to the superbug were undergoing a procedure to diagnose and treat problems related to the pancreas and biliary track, according to UCLA. The medical center began notifying patients who may be at risk on Wednesday, and are providing free home testing kits which the hospital will analyze.

The superbug -- carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE)--is thought to be have been transmitted via the medical instruments despite the fact that those instruments had been sterilized to the manufacturer’s prescribed standards. CRE is resistant to practically every antibiotic currently on the market, including carbapenems, which are considered as the antibiotics of last resort, Frontline reports.

According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the design of the duodenoscopes could impede the process of cleaning and disinfecting. The scopes are lit, flexible tubes that are threaded through the mouth, throat, stomach, and duodenum. The FDA has recommended that new maintenance procedures be undertaken and that the scopes not be used, if they are suspected to have been exposed to the bug at some point.

UCLA said in a statement that it stopped using the two scopes involved in the outbreak and is now using a decontamination process that goes “above and beyond the manufacturer and national standards” for its scopes.

According to UCLA, similar CRE exposures associated with the same types of scopes have been reported in other US hospitals. For example, Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle had a similar CRE outbreak between 2012 and 2014. That outbreak infected at least 32 patients 11 of whom died, although doctors said it was unclear what role the infections may have played, according to The Seattle Times.

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