One baby has already died and 14 more are seriously ill after they contracted blood poisoning from contaminated intravenous feed.The newborn who died was being treated at London’s Guy’s and St Thomas’s Hospital, London.
All of the babies, some of whom were premature, were being fed by tube as they were too weak to take formula by mouth.
The blood poisoning was caused by contamination with Bacillus cereus. Prof Ron Cutler, director of Biomedical Science Degree Programmes, Queen Mary University of London, said:
“Bacillus cereus is widespread in the environment. It is commonly found in the soil. Poorly cooked food such as rice, which can be contaminated with these spores, are a common cause of food poisoning.
“Because they form spores it makes it more difficult to disinfect surfaces and materials contaminated with these spores without using high temperatures and/or powerful disinfectants. In addition, when untreated, spores can survive in environments for long time periods.” (source)
Public Health England (PHE) said it is examining 14 other cases of septicaemia in babies at a total of six hospitals in England. Those babies are responding well to antibiotics.
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).
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.