In today’s terrifying health news, the LA Times reports that two medical scopes used at UCLA’s Ronald Reagan Medical Center may have been contaminated with the potentially deadly, antibiotic-resistant bacteria Carbapenem-Resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE). Two patients have died from complications that may be connected to the bacteria, and authorities believe that 179 more patients have been exposed.
Most healthy people aren’t at risk of catching a CRE infection, but in hospitals this bacteria can be quite dangerous: CRE kills as many as half of all people in whom the infection has spread to the bloodstream. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are working with the CA Department of Public Health to investigate the situation, which is expected to result in more infections.
The problem isn’t just in Los Angeles, though. Last month USA Today reported that hospitals around the country struggle with transmissions of bacteria on these scopes—medical devices commonly used to treat digestive-system problems—and there have been several other under-the-radar outbreaks of CRE.
This is pretty scary stuff, considering that in the antibiotics arms race against bacteria, we are starting to fall behind. Due in large part to unnecessary medical prescriptions and overuse of antibiotics in our food supply, these superbugs are on the rise. In a study published last year that focused specifically on hospitals in the Southeastern United States, researchers reported that CRE cases had increased fivefold between 2008 and 2012.