Drug resistant ‘superbug’ could infect nearly 200 people

February 26th, 2015




An 18-year-old student currently hospitalized as a result of the “superbug” outbreak originating at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) is suing the makers of the medal instruments linked to the epidemic, according to NBC.


Contaminated endoscopes, manufactured by Olympus Corporation of the Americas, were used in nearly 200 procedures at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center between October 2014 and January 2015.


Seven cases of the superbug have been confirmed, of which two of the patients died, and an additional 179 patients were treated with the infected endoscopes, according to the Los Angeles Times.


The UCLA outbreak involves CRE, or carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae.


It is extremely resistant to antibiotics and can kill up to 50 percent of patients who become infected. Symptoms include fever, chills and extreme sepsis, according to the Los Angeles Times.


The United States Food and Drug Administration issued a warning on Feb. 19 about the type of endoscope that is linked to the UCLA outbreak, according to NBC News.


The FDA reported the devices, used to look inside the body, are especially hard to clean, which is troubling for an instrument that can be reused and cleaned several times each day.


Los Angeles County health officials are trying to assuage public fears, saying in a statement that the outbreak is “not a threat to the public,” according to the LA Times.


“We get up every morning and come to work to help heal humankind,” said Dr. David Feinberg, president of the UCLA Health System. “When something like this happens, it really just gets us in our gut.”


Dr. Feinburg added that “Our hearts go out to the families of the two patients that passed away, the other patients that are infected [and] to those that have the anxiety of waiting for the test results.”


The UCLA cases are the latest of several CRE outbreaks nationwide that have been linked to the endoscopes. These endoscopes are used to treat gallstones, certain cancers and other disorders in the digestive system, according to USA Today.


Three cases of the superbug have been confirmed at Carolinas HealthCare System Lincoln located in North Carolina.


Another hospital in Illinois has identified 38 patients who tested positive over the past year for CRE, according to the Chicago Tribune.


Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, Illinois is urging anyone who underwent surgery using the same endoscopes that are involved in the UCLA outbreak to come in and undergo free testing.


Investigators determined that the patients with the bacteria had undergone a type of endoscopic procedure, in which a flexible tube is inserted down the throat to inspect the pancreas and bile ducts, according to the Chicago Tribune.


This procedure is similar to the one causing the UCLA outbreak.


CRE, a family of bacteria usually found in hospitals and other healthcare facilities, has evolved a huge resistance to anitbiotics, according to CNN.


It is so deadly that few antibiotics work against its different variations.


CRE cannot be transmitted through the air, making it much less deadly than it could be, according to CNN.


Only by touching the wound of an infected person and then touching the open wound of an uninfected person will the bacteria spread.


Patients undergoing surgery using the endoscopes may have a greater risk for infection. This is due to the fact that patients have underlying health problems, requiring them to undergo the procedures that use the endoscopes in the first place.


According to CNN, there are few anitbiotics that work against CRE, but some that do may cause kidney failure.


In order to stop the spread of the bacteria, cleanliness is crucial, according to USA Today.


It is also important not to overuse antibiotics, according to experts cited by CNN, as the overuse of antibiotics led to the bacteria developing antibiotic resistance.


Editor’s Note: Information from CNN, USA Today, The Chicago Tribune, NBC and The Los Angeles Times was used in this report.