Baby units on alert after newborn dies from infected fluids

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Neonatal units at South Yorkshire hospitals have been put on alert after a newborn baby died and 14 others were given blood poisoning by an infected batch of intravenous fluid.

The affected babies were in intensive care units in six different hospitals around the UK.

According to Public Health England, which is looking into the 15 cases, they were all given nutritional fluids into the bloodstream via a drip.

The particular batch of fluids was contaminated with Bacillus cereus, a bacterium which is common on the surface of the skin but can cause septicaemia if it gets into the bloodstream.

All of the surviving babies are said to be responding to antibiotic treatment.

Prof Mike Catchpole, in charge of the investigation, said it was a ‘very unfortunate incident’.

“Given that the bacteria is widely spread in the environment, we are continuing to investigate any other potential sources of infection. However, all our investigations to date indicate that the likely source of the infection has been identified,” he said.

“We have acted quickly to investigate this issue alongside the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Authority and we have taken action to ensure that the affected batches and any remaining stock of this medicine is not being used in hospitals.”

The fluids, which are given to babies too immature or weak to take nutrition by mouth, was manufactured by ITH Pharma Limited. PHE says the company has identified an incident at its factory which could have caused the contamination.

The hospitals involved are - Chelsea and Westminster NHS Trust (four cases), Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust (three cases), The Whittington Hospital in Islington (one case), Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust (three cases), CUH Addenbrookes - Cambridge University Hospitals (two cases) and Luton and Dunstable University Hospital (two cases).

An alert has been issued to all neonatal units in the country, although PHE says the batch has now expired and it believes there will probably be no more cases.

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