A hospital in Los Angeles revealed on Wednesday that more than 100 of its patients may have been exposed to a potentially deadly superbug that has already been linked with two deaths at the facility.
In a press release on Feb. 18, the UCLA Health System said that over 100 of its patients may have been infected of the superbug bacteria on contaminated medical instrument at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center.
Affected patients were those who underwent complex endoscopic procedures that took place between October 2014 and January this year.
"The UCLA Health System has notified more than 100 patients that they may have been infected by a 'superbug' bacteria during complex endoscopic procedures that took place between October 2014 and January 2015," UCLA said in a statement.
The hospital said that the equipment that were used had been sterilized according to the manufacturer's stipulated standards but an internal investigation has found that the antibiotic-resistant carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae, or CRE, bacteria may have been transmitted during a procedure that utilized a specialized scope.
The equipment is used to diagnose and treat pancreaticobiliary diseases. UCLA said that the two scopes linked with the infection were already removed and the hospital currently utilizes a decontamination process that goes beyond national and manufacturer standards.
The bacteria, which can cause infections of the lungs or bladder that could lead to fever, coughing or chills, may have contributed in the death of two patients at the facility. It has also infected seven patients. The hospital pointed out that similar exposure to CRE involving the same scope have been reported in other U.S. hospitals
The NBC News revealed that notification letters to patients who may have been exposed to the super bug were sent on Tuesday, Feb. 17. Patients have also been offered with free home testing kits to be analyzed at the hospital.
CRE bacteria is particularly dangerous because of their resistance to the most powerful antibiotics. About half of those with CRE blood infection die from it. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), CRE infection tend to occur in hospital settings and the most vulnerable to this are individuals with invasive medical device such as catheter and ventilator.
"CRE are nightmare bacteria. Our strongest antibiotics don't work and patients are left with potentially untreatable infections," said CDC Director Tom Frieden. "Doctors, hospital leaders, and public health, must work together now to implement CDC's 'detect and protect' strategy and stop these infections from spreading."