Doctors at UCLA’s flagship hospital were baffled: A healthy 40-year-old woman had fallen deathly ill after a routine procedure.

A long black scope had been threaded down her throat to treat troublesome gallstones. Now antibiotics were powerless to stop a raging infection.

Her physicians called in Dr. Zachary Rubin, the hospital’s director of clinical epidemiology and infection prevention, and its top disease detective.

He immediately suspected the scope itself — a dirty one could cause this kind of infection.

So Rubin inspected the hospital’s cleaning rooms, where workers scrub dozens of reusable medical instruments and load them in washing machines packed with powerful disinfectants. He saw no evidence to support his theory.

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