UK & World News

  • 5 June 2014, 11:58

Newborn Dies As NHS Drips 'Poison 15 Babies'

An investigation is under way after a baby being treated in intensive care died from blood poisoning through an infection caught from a suspected contaminated drip.

Public Health England (PHE) said it is examining 14 other cases of septicaemia in babies at a total of six hospitals in England.

The infant who died was being treated at St Thomas' Hospital in central London.

The baby died on June 1 and the other two children who fell ill at the same neonatal unit are "responding well" to antibiotics, a spokeswoman for the hospital said.

"All babies on the unit are being screened for the bacterium as a precaution and enhanced infection control measures have been put in place to prevent any further cases," she said.

PHE said the 15 cases have been "strongly linked" with a number of batches of a liquid called parenteral nutrition, which was fed to the babies through intravenous drips.

The bacteria that caused the infection is called bacillus cereus, which is found widely in the environment in dust, soil and vegetation.

As well as St Thomas' Hospital, babies have fallen ill in neonatal intensive care units at Chelsea and Westminster NHS Trust (four cases), Whittington Hospital (one case), Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust (three cases), CUH Addenbrookes (two cases) and Luton and Dunstable University Hospital (two cases).

Professor Mike Catchpole, PHE's incident director, said: "We have acted quickly to investigate this issue ... and we have taken action to ensure that the affected batches and any remaining stock of this medicine is not being used in hospitals."

Parenteral nutrition is usually produced under sterilised conditions to cut the risk of the use of the product resulting in infections.

The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) issued a Class 1 Drug Alert over the suspected batch of contaminated liquid.

Class 1 is the most critical alert and requires immediate recall.

PHE said London-based ITH Pharma Limited, which makes the batch in question, had already issued a recall notice.

The company's managing director, Karen Hamling, said the firm was "very saddened" by the baby's death and is co-operating fully with the investigation.

Sky's Health Correspondent Thomas Moore said premature and seriously sick children were particularly vulnerable to infections.

He said: "(Officials) believe there's probably nothing left of these batches in the supply chain.

"There's been a precautionary note to doctors and nurses asking them to check batch numbers.

"They believe this has been contained, that it's been identified swiftly, although sadly not swiftly enough for this one baby."

PHE said investigations with the company had identified an incident that might have caused the contamination. 

It said most surfaces would test positive for the presence of the bacteria, which produces hardy spores that, in the right conditions, produce a toxin which causes illness.

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