Benoit Tessier / Reuters

'Superbug' infection hits second LA hospital

Four patients at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center contract antibiotic-resistant infection from widely used medical scope

A second Los Angeles hospital is reporting that patients have been infected with an antibiotic-resistant "superbug" linked to a type of widely used medical scope.

Four patients are infected with the bug, known as CRE, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center said Wednesday.

Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center reported a similar outbreak two weeks go. In those cases, seven patients, two of whom later died, were sickened with the superbug after undergoing endoscopic procedures.

Cedars said in a statement that it halted such procedures after learning about the UCLA outbreak and launched its own investigation. The hospital said the germ may have been transmitted through a duodenoscope, a fiber-optic instrument made by Olympus Corp., during procedures performed between last August and January.

Cedars said there's no evidence other patients are at risk. But as a precaution, it's sending free home-test kits to 67 more patients who had procedures to diagnose pancreatic and bile-duct problems.

The latest infections were reported to state and local health departments and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Cedars did not immediately respond to a message seeking further comment.

The Food and Drug Administration, meanwhile, issued an updated safety alert for duodenoscopes, urging medical providers to inform patients of the risks, including possible transmission of infection, associated with the use of such instruments.

The alert also puts providers on notice to report any infections they suspect were caused by problems with the scopes to the manufacturer and the FDA.

Hospitals across the country in recent years have grappled with cases of CRE, or carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae, with some linked to hard-to-clean medical scopes. The bacteria can cause infections of the bladder or lungs and can contribute to death in up to half of seriously infected patients.

Cedars and UCLA said infections occurred despite cleaning the devices to the manufacturer's standards. The hospitals have since implemented more stringent disinfection procedures.

In the UCLA outbreak, the hospital offered free testing to about 170 patients who were potentially exposed. The hospital said Wednesday it doesn't have an update on the results.

The FDA has said it received reports of 135 patients in the U.S. who may have been infected by contaminated scopes between January 2013 and December 2014. The agency has acknowledged that the design of the scopes can make them hard to clean, but it said pulling them off the market would deprive patients of "this beneficial and often life-saving procedure."

Olympus declined to comment on the Cedars infections. It previously said it's working with the FDA on the infection problem and providing guidance to hospitals.

Cedars said it removed the contaminated scope from use and will resume endoscopic procedures after consulting with other hospitals and government agencies.

Wire services

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