St Thomas' Hospital in London. A baby being treated in the hospital's neonatal intensive care unit has died from blood poisoning after being infected by a suspected contaminated drip. Photo: Ian Nicholson/PA Wire

Hospitals on alert after 15 babies suffer blood poisoning

Wednesday, June 4, 2014
8.36 PM

A baby has died from blood poisoning after contracting an infection believed to be from a contaminated drip administered to them in hospital, health officials have said

A total of 15 babies in six hospitals across England have developed septicaemia after being infected with the bacteria known as Bacillus cereus, Public Health England (PHE) said.

Although the product suspected to be behind the incident was only issued to a limited number of neonatal units, an alert has been issued to all neonatology units across the UK to make them aware of the incident.

One of the hospital’s affected is the Rosie Hospital which is part of Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust along with Addenbrooke’s Hospital. There are two cases of the infection at the hospital and a hospital spokesman said both babies were currently “stable and improving.”

It has been confirmed that the baby which died from blood poisoning after being infected by a suspected contaminated drip was being treated in the neonatal intensive care unit at St Thomas’ Hospital in London.

PHE said that the cases have been “strongly linked” with a number of batches of a particular form of intravenous liquid called parenteral nutrition, which was given to the babies.

The liquid, manufactured by ITH Pharma Limited, is supposed to deliver a variety of nutrients intravenously when a baby is unable to eat on their own.

A PHE spokeswoman said that investigations with the company have identified “an incident that might have caused the contamination”.

The affected babies were in neonatal intensive care units at three London-based NHS organisations - Chelsea and Westminster NHS Trust, Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust and The Whittington Hospital - as well as Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust, Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Luton and Dunstable University Hospital.

An official said that PHE and Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) confirmed that an investigation has been launched into the issue.

The manufacturer has issued a recall and the MHRA has issued an alert to draw attention to the product recall.

PHE said that doctors have also been given advice on identifying any potential cases of infection and how to dispose of affected stock.

A spokesman for Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said: “Public Health England has been investigating a small number of cases of infections on neonatal units within six UK hospitals, including CUH Addenbrooke’s.  The infections were traced back to a feeding substance which has now been withdrawn. All the babies concerned are being treated and have responded well.   Public Health England believes the outbreak is now controlled but will be following up to make sure there is no further risk. If parents have any concerns they should speak to their clinician.”

A spokesman for the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King’s Lynn confirmed that the hospital had received the notification issued to all neonatal units. He said that QEH was not one of the hospitals affected and that the affected product was not issued to the King’s Lynn hospital.

A spokesman for the James Paget University Hospital, in Gorleston, said: “We are aware of the MHRA alert that has been issued and we are not named in the list of trusts within the alert.

“We can say we do not have any babies receiving feeds of this type at the current time and we are following the advice given in the alert.”

David Booth, consultant neonatologist for the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, added: “We are aware of the MHRA alert and can confirm that NNUH is not affected and does not use the product from this manufacturer.”