Superbug linked to 2 deaths at UCLA hospital, 179 Exposed! BREAKING NEWS – Nearly 180 patients at UCLA’s Ronald Reagan Medical Center may have been exposed to potentially deadly bacteria from contaminated medical scopes, and two deaths have already been linked to the outbreak. The Times has learned that the two people who died are among seven patients that UCLA found were infected by the drug-resistant superbug known as CRE — a number that may grow as more patients get tested. The outbreak is the latest in a string of similar incidents across the country that has top health officials scrambling for a solution. UCLA said it discovered the outbreak late last month while running tests on a patient. This week, it began to notify 179 other patients who were treated from October to January and offer them medical tests. By some estimates, if the infection spreads to a person’s bloodstream, the bacteria can kill 40% to 50% of patients.  At issue is a specialized endoscope inserted down the throats of about 500,000 patients annually to treat cancers, gallstones and other ailments of the digestive system. These duodenoscopes are considered minimally invasive, and doctors credit them for saving lives through early detection and treatment. But medical experts say some scopes can be difficult to disinfect through conventional cleaning because of their design, so bacteria are transmitted from patient to patient. These instruments are not the same type used in more routine endoscopies and colonoscopies. The procedure in question is known as ERCP, or endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography. The superbug is carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae.  UCLA said it immediately notified public health authorities after discovering the bacteria in one patient and tracing the problem to two of these endoscopes. The university said it had been cleaning the scopes “according to standards stipulated by the manufacturer,” and it changed how it disinfects the instruments after the infections occurred. Dale Tate, a university spokeswoman, said “the two scopes involved with the infection were immediately removed and UCLA is now utilizing a decontamination process that goes above and beyond the manufacturer and national standards.” Tate declined to provide details on the two people who died, citing patient confidentiality. State and federal officials are looking into the situation at UCLA as they wrestle with how to respond to the problem industrywide. Since 2012, there have been about a half-dozen outbreaks affecting up to 150 patients in Illinois, Pennsylvania and most recently at a well-known Seattle medical center, according to experts. MORE