'Superbug' raises questions about tool

LOS ANGELES -- A "superbug" outbreak suspected in the deaths of two Los Angeles hospital patients is raising disturbing questions about the design of a hard-to-clean medical instrument used on more than half a million people in the U.S. every year.

At least seven people -- two of whom died -- have been infected with a potentially lethal, antibiotic-resistant strain of bacteria after undergoing endoscopic procedures at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center between October and January.

And more than 170 other patients may have been exposed as well, university officials said.

UCLA said the infections may have been transmitted through at least two contaminated endoscopes that were used to diagnose and treat pancreatic and bile-duct problems.

The infections occurred even though the instruments had been cleaned according to the manufacturer's instructions, the hospital said.

On Thursday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued an advisory warning doctors that even when a manufacturer's cleaning instructions are followed, infectious germs may linger in the devices.

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