Drug-resistant bacteria linked to two deaths at UCLA hospital

Story highlights

NEW: UCLA says 179 people may have been exposed

Carbapenem-resistant enterobacteriaceae is better known as CRE

CDC says it can resist most antibiotics and kills about half the people it infects

CNN  — 

The deaths of two patients at a Los Angeles hospital are linked to the deadly bacteria CRE and more than 100 other patients may have been exposed to the drug-resistant superbug, a spokeswoman for the UCLA Health System said Wednesday.

Roxanne Yamaguchi Moster said in a written statement that seven patients at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center are known to have been infected by carbapenem-resistant enterobacteriaceae, and CRE was a contributing factor in the death of two of them.

The hospital is contacting 179 other patients who had endoscopic procedures between October and January. The patients have been offered tests for the aggressive bacteria they can take at home.

Moster said two scopes were sterilized to the manufacturer’s instructions.

“However, an internal investigation determined that CRE bacteria may have been transmitted during a procedure that uses this specialized scope to diagnose and treat pancreaticobiliary (disorders of the bile ducts, gall bladder or pancreas),” Moster said.

The hospital notified the Los Angeles County and the state of California health departments when it discovered the bacteria.

The L.A. County Public Health Department visited the hospital to review procedures. “No infection control breaches were observed,” the department said in a statement.

Some CRE bacteria can resist most antibiotics, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says on its website. The bacteria can kill up to half of patients who are infected.

CDC: ‘Nightmare bacteria’ spreading

CNN’s Dottie Evans contributed to this report.