Scopes Faulted for Hospital 'Superbug' Outbreak Were New, Cleaned Properly, Officials Say

PHOTO: The exterior of the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center is shown, Feb. 18, 2015, in Los Angeles.Francine Orr/Los Angeles Times/Getty Images
The exterior of the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center is shown, Feb. 18, 2015, in Los Angeles.

A California hospital apologized today to patients who became infected with an antibiotic-resistant bug, and said it has identified the source of the infections: two contaminated endoscopes that were cleaned according to manufacturer instructions but retained the bug anyway.

Seven people have become infected with the drug-resistant "superbug" known as CRE at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center after undergoing endoscopy procedures, and CRE may have played a role in two of its patients' deaths, the hospital said Wednesday afternoon, adding that 179 people were exposed to the germ.

The scopes were new and had only been in use since June, said Dr. Zachary Rubin, medical director of clinical epidemiology and infection prevention at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center.

"There are several manufacturers for these scopes," said Dr. Benjamin Schwartz, deputy chief of the acute communicable disease control program, Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. "Because of the complexity of these scopes, which is necessary for the life-saving procedures for these scopes, they are very, very difficult to clean. The manufacturer recommendations were followed by UCLA."

PHOTO: Carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE) bacteria is pictured in this medical illustration provided by the Centre of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).CDC/Reuters
Carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE) bacteria is pictured in this medical illustration provided by the Centre of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The first case occurred in mid-December when a patient became ill after undergoing endoscopy to examine his or her gallbladder, the hospital has learned.

"The patient developed almost immediately an infection afterwards with unusual bacteria that was resistant to strains of normally active antibiotics," Rubin said, explaining that it took time to trace the cases back to this original patient.

The hospital has now taken all of its scopes out of use, and has implemented additional cleaning protocols beyond manufacturer recommendations. It has emailed and called all patients who underwent endoscopy from Oct. 23 through Jan. 28, officials said.

PHOTO: UCLA doctors hold press conference to discuss the recent superbug outbreak, Feb. 19, 2015.ABC News
UCLA doctors hold press conference to discuss the recent "superbug" outbreak, Feb. 19, 2015.