Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles said it has discovered that four patients were infected with a deadly superbug from a contaminated medical scope and 68 more people may have been exposed.
The hospital said Wednesday it began investigating the possibility of patient infections after a similar outbreak at UCLA’s Ronald Reagan Medical Center. In that outbreak, five people became infected and two died after being treated with scopes carrying CRE bacteria.
Patients at Cedars-Sinai may have been exposed to the lethal superbug from one Olympus Corp. duodenoscope in use from August 2014 to mid-February, according to the hospital.
Cedars-Sinai said one of the four infected patients has died, but it was unrelated to a CRE infection.
L.A. County and California health authorities have been notified.
Last week, Cedars officials said they were investigating the potential link between CRE infections and the scopes used in a procedure known as ERCP, or endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography.
Nationally, about half a million patients a year undergo ERCP, in which a thin, fiber-optic scope is threaded down the person’s throat to diagnose and treat problems in the digestive tract such as gallstones, cancers and blockages in the bile duct.
CRE, which stands for carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae, is highly resistant to antibiotics and can kill up to 50% of infected patients.
The infections at UCLA and now Cedars-Sinai are the latest in a string of similar scope-related outbreaks across the United States.
The Food and Drug Administration said last month that it was aware of 135 possible patient infections from January 2013 to December 2014 linked to duodenoscopes.
Federal lawmakers and patient-safety advocates have criticized the FDA for its slow response to the problem of contaminated medical scopes amid earlier warnings.
A spokesman for Olympus, the industry leader for gastrointestinal endoscopes, said it’s working with regulators, medical societies and customers on the development of “additional safeguards to prevent infection associated with endoscopic procedures, including ERCP.”
The company also noted that “while any complication affecting a patient’s health is a serious matter, the reported incidence of infections is extremely low” with ERCP.
A day after the UCLA outbreak was reported by the Los Angeles Times on Feb. 18, the FDA warned hospitals and doctors that following manufacturers’ cleaning instructions does not ensure that the scopes are free of bacteria, which can become trapped in tiny crevices near the tip of the devices. Cedars said it had meticulously followed the manufacturer's cleaning instructions.