© AFP/Mark Ralston
Exterior view of the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center
At least two people have died and a further seven exposed to a deadly strain of drug-resistant superbug bacteria at a hospital on the UCLA campus. Authorities are notifying 179 more people that have potentially been exposed.
The enterobacteriaceae (CRE) can be fatal in as many as half of all cases if the bacteria reach the bloodstream.
The university discovered the outbreak last month, while running tests on a patient. It will now test the other 179 people it believes to be infected. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention are currently assisting the LA County Department of Public Health in investigating further effects.
Doctors at the Ronald Reagan Medical Center, where the outbreak occurred, believe the moment of infection happened "during complex endoscopic procedures that took place between October 2014 and January 2015," according to CBS.
"These outbreaks at UCLA and other hospitals could collectively be the most significant instance of disease transmission ever linked to a contaminated reusable medical instrument
," believes Larence Muscarella, a safety consultant at Ronald Reagan.
Although the scopes were sterilized in accordance with standard procedure, their very construction carries with it a risk of bacterial buildup. It turns out the scope could have transmitted the infection during a procedure "to diagnose and treat pancreaticobiliary diseases," at least that is the working theory at this time.
Over 500,000 people annually have scopes inserted into their bodies to treat infections and diseases occurring in the digestive system. The clinic is receiving high praise for spotting the infection early and enabling treatment. But there is ongoing debate about proper disinfection of the scopes, with some saying that conventional techniques aren't suited to the scopes' design.