Superbug Kills Two, and Dozens May Be Infected
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By Jordan Davidson
So far, two of the seven people infected with an antibiotic-resistant superbug, (CRE), at UCLA's Ronald Reagan Medical Center have died, according to a statement released on Wednesday. Patients were infected after undergoing complex endoscopic procedures.
The medical center is mailing free home testing kits to all patients who had procedures using contaminated duodenoscopes between October 2014 and January 2015. According to the LA Times, UCLA has reached out to 179 patients. The test results will be analyzed by UCLA labs for the bacteria.
CRE is not just one bacterium; it is a group of bacteria (E. coli is one of them) that are resistant to many antibiotics. Because these bacteria are so hard to treat, infections are often fatal. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates a 50 percent mortality rate for those infected. Certain less-prescribed antibiotics may treat CRE infections; it is extremely rare for CRE to be resistant to all antibiotics.
Fortunately, CRE is not easily transmitted, and healthy people are rarely affected. However, it poses a big risk in hospitals – especially for elderly and immunocompromised patients. For CRE to spread, the bacteria must come into contact with a susceptible part of the body – such as an open wound. CRE can't be transmitted through the air, making it less likely to spread outside of the hospital environment.
On Thursday, in response to the UCLA outbreak, the Food and Drug Administration warned other hospitals that these scopes, which are used to get an internal view of the stomach, pancreas, and other organs, can be very hard to clean. UCLA reported that they sterilized the scopes using standard procedures. Since becoming aware of the problem, UCLA has stopped using the two scopes linked to the infections and "is now utilizing a decontamination process that goes above and beyond the manufacturer and national standards."
This isn't the medical center's first offense. The LA Times reports that "an influential healthcare quality organization gave the Ronald Reagan Medical Center a failing grade on patient safety in 2012."
Hospital-acquired infections are a huge problem. According to a 2011 survey from the CDC, United States hospitals report approximately 721,800 infections per year. For every 25 hospital patients, one will develop at least one healthcare-associated infection. The majority of these infections are pneumonia or surgical site infections.
Photo Credit: CDC/AP Photo
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