A new "superbug" has been making headlines after the death of two patients from the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center.
Exposure to the superbug carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae, or CRE, occurred throughout October and January at the medical center. According to health officials, seven patients were infected and 179 others were exposed to it.
With so much misinformation and confusion about superbugs, it's important to know a few things about CRE.
Here's what you should know:
1). What is CRE?
Carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae, or CRE, are a family of germs with high levels of resistance to antibiotics, making them hard to treat. According to the CDC, CRE infections can be deadly.
They can cause death in up to 50 percent of those who become infected. They are more likely to occur in patients of hospitals, nursing homes and other healthcare settings through medical equipment.
2). What equipment led to the CRE outbreak?
The CRE outbreak was traced back to a contaminated endoscope. This medical equipment is used for procedures on the gallbladder, pancreatic ducts and bile ducts, CNN News said.
Although endoscopy allows doctors to catch diseases that would otherwise go unnoticed, they have led to more hospital outbreaks than any other device. They are exposed to many colonies of bacteria and require thorough sanitation.
3). How was the endoscope contaminated?
The instrument used has a movable mechanism called a forceps elevator. This part is difficult to clean as it has various small moving parts.
According to the FDA, the instructions that come with the device say that the elevator area must be brushed, but this may not be enough to completely sanitize the device.
The tiny crevices of the elevator may retain residue and remain there even after brushing. This can expose the next patient if the residue contains microbial contamination.
4). How is it being treated?
Since the CRE superbug is highly resistant to current antibiotics, doctors have to resort to using antibiotics from 40 to 50 years ago. Because the germs have not been exposed to these older antibiotics, they do not have resistance to them, said Dr. Frank Esper in an interview with ABC News.
However, although this seems like a simple solution, these older antibiotics are more toxic.
5). How do I protect myself if I need a procedure done with a duodenoscope?
Procedures done with a duodenoscope are vital and could save your life, so you shouldn't avoid them.
Ask your doctor about cleaning procedures and ask whether the hospital has tested the scopes for bacteria. Hospitals have started testing their scopes for bacteria and are only using them after receiving negative results, CNN News said.
What to Know About the CRE 'Suberbug' Infecting UCLA Patients. ABC News. Retrieved February 20, 2015. http://abcnews.go.com/Health/cre-superbug-infecting-ucla-patients/story?id=29074035
CRE Outbreak: You're due to go in for a procedure. Should you be worried? CNN News. Retrieved February 20, 2015. http://www.cnn.com/2015/02/20/health/cre-outbreak-patient-questions/