Mar 05, 2015 05:50 PM EST
Four patients have been infected with an antibiotic-resistant "superbug" at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. The superbug in questions has been linked to a type of medical scope that is used on more than a half-million people in the United States each year.
In a statement the hospital says that it has halted endoscopic procedures after learning about the outbreak, and after two patients died from the same superbug known as CRE at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center two weeks ago. The hospital says that CRE may have been transmitted through a duodenoscope made by Olympus Corp. during procedures that were performed between August and January. Cedars confirmed that one patient has died, but not as a result of the superbug infection.
The hospital believes that no other patients are currently at risk, but as a precaution it has sent free home-test kits to 67 patients who had procedures to diagnose pancreatic and bile-duct problems. Officials at both hospitals revealed that the infections occurred despite cleaning the devices to the manufacturer's standards. Both medical facilities have since implemented more stringent disinfection procedures.
CRE, or carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae, can cause infections of the bladder and the lungs and can even result in the death of patients that are seriously infected. This superbug is highly resistant to antibiotics and can kill up to 50% of patients that become infected.
Cedars Sinai has removed the contaminated scope from use and will resume endoscopic procedures after it consults with other hospitals and government agencies.
Olympus spokesman Mark Miller says that "while any complication affecting a patient's health is a serious matter, the reported incidence of infections is extremely low" compared with the 500,000 ERCP procedures performed annually.
Between January 2013 and December 2014, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said they received reports of 135 patients who have been infected by contaminated scopes. While the agency acknowledges that the design of the devices makes them difficult to clean properly, pulling them off the market would deprive patients of "this beneficial and often life-saving procedure."
Consumer advocates, lawmakers and the families of patients have criticized regulators and manufacturers for failing to act sooner.
"It's highly likely many hospitals around the country have had outbreaks, and they haven't been able to connect the dots until this problem was disclosed at UCLA," director of the Safe Patient Project at Consumers Union, Lisa McGiffert says. "It's just a little late - especially for those who got infections and maybe died as a consequence," she said.
"It's really horrific to know so many people underwent these procedures when they could have known the danger beforehand. They went in trusting the system, and the system broke down."
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