No new 'superbug' cases found; bacteria does not pose threat to public: UCLA health officials

WESTWOOD, Calif. (KABC) -- UCLA health officials said the "superbug" bacterial outbreak does not pose a threat to the public, and that no new cases have been identified.

During a press conference at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, Dr. Zachary Rubin said that there were seven Olympus scopes that were used for endoscopic procedures. These scopes are angled to make it possible for doctors to access the pancreas and other parts of the body that are difficult to reach.

The scopes were used on patients between October 2014 and January 2015, and had arrived at the hospital sometime in June, Rubin said. In January, one patient who underwent the procedure became ill with antibiotic-resistant carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE).

After UCLA conducted its own investigation, two of the scopes were determined to contain CRE.

On Wednesday, UCLA officials said 179 patients who underwent endoscopic procedures during that time period could have been exposed to CRE. Seven of those patients have the infection and two of them have died.

Kevin Boyle, an attorney for one of those patients, said his client is clinging to life.

"He was very, very unfortunately close to death. I mean imagine being in the ICU for months and months," Boyle said.

Medical center officials said they have contacted all of those patients to inform them of possible infection as a precaution.

All seven of the scopes have since been removed, and UCLA health officials said cleaning procedures have been upgraded.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the bacteria is difficult to treat because it has high levels of resistance to antibiotics. The bacteria can cause bladder or lung infections that lead to coughing, fever, chills and even sepsis.

The Federal Drug Administration has also issued a warning to doctors about the scopes and noted that the complex design of the scopes make them difficult to clean efficiently.

Dr. Benjamin Schwartz with the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health said this particular strain of CRE is not a threat to the public. He also cautioned people who may use antibiotics too often.

"Demanding an antibiotic when it is not needed can induce these resistant organisms and lead to the spread of this problem," Schwartz said.

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