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Deadly superbug claims life of another victim

By Candace Kellner
Staff Writer

Endoscopes may be contaminated by the deadly bacteria (AP Photo).
Endoscopes may be contaminated by the deadly bacteria (AP Photo).

The same superbug that caused the death of two people in Los Angeles has claimed the life of a North Carolinian, a spokesman told CNN. Carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae, or CRE, is a highly dangerous bacterium that can kill as many as half of CRE-infected patients, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Two years ago, the bacteria had threatened the country, and now the “nightmare bacteria” is back. According to USA Today, in a Seattle outbreak in 2012, the bacteria infected 32 patients and seven died within 30 days. Eighteen people in total have caught CRE so far this year, according to Kevin McCarthy, a spokesman with the Carolinas HealthCare System.

Fifteen of the 18 infected patients had CRE before entering the Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, and the other three acquired the bacteria in the hospital, according to McCarthy. One of these three patients died. McCarthy did not disclose information regarding any of the patients, and it was also uncertain how the remaining 15 patients had contracted the infection in the first place.

Seven patients at a Los Angeles hospital contracted CRE after having routine endoscopic treatment for bile ducts, gallbladder or pancreas. The Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center told CNN that two of these patients died after becoming infected. However, CRE was a contributing factor to death, not the main cause. The hospital did not release details of the exact cause of death in those cases, either.

The UCLA hospital officials have said that they had properly carried out disinfection guidelines before using the medical scopes on the patients. The Food and Drug Administration is investigating and reviewing data from two other companies who produce the same duodenoscope as the one used by the hospital during the endoscopic treatments.

As a measure of precaution, the medical center is contacting 179 other patients who underwent the same procedure between October and January of 2014. They are also offering these patients home examinations to test for the bacteria, according to CNN.

In a statement, McCarthy said Carolinas HealthCare System uses standard methods for preparing its equipment for use. He also said that the hospital’s duodenoscopes have been tested and the devices have tested negative for CRE.

On their website, the CDC warns that some strains of CRE are resistant to most antibiotics. According to CNN, researchers are also concerned that CRE could start affecting the general public, as well, if the bacteria becomes more widespread in hospitals.

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