The UCLA Health System is notifying more than 160 patients that they may have been exposed to a bacterial "superbug" during endoscopies after an investigation found seven patients were infected — and the bug may have contributed to two deaths, the hospital said Wednesday.
Patients being alerted underwent "complex" endoscopic procedures between October 2014 and January of this year, according to a statement emailed by Kim Irwin, spokeswoman for UCLA Health Sciences.
And NBC News Investigations obtained an email — sent by Joshua Bobrowsky of the L.A. County Department of Public Health — stating the seven infections occurred at UCLA Ronald Reagan Medical Center, and that "patient notification letters of possible exposure" were sent Tuesday by UCLA to 169 patients.
The "superbug" has been identified as carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CRE is "a family of germs" highly resistant to antibiotics.
In a previous news release, the CDC had said that same bacteria can kill up to half of all patients who become infected with it in their bloodstreams. The report added that almost all CRE infections "occur in people receiving significant medical care in hospitals, long-term acute care facilities, or nursing homes."
CDC director Dr. Tom Frieden has called CRE a "nightmare bacteria."
"Our strongest antibiotics don't work and patients are left with potentially untreatable infections," Frieden said in 2013.