Bacteria that may cause infection found at intensive care unit for babies at Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital

General view of the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital Picture: James Bass;

General view of the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital Picture: James Bass; - Credit: Evening News © 2009

Two babies on a high level intensive care unit are carrying germs which could cause infection, prompting precautionary screenings.

Doctors at the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (N&N) said two infants were carrying the bacteria ESBL Klebsiella.

Experts have reassured parents that everyone has the 'normal' bacteria, which usually lives harmlessly in the bowel.

But as it can cause infection in NICU babies, all babies on the ward are being screened - with a repeat of the routine skin and rectal swabs that all babies have on admission to the unit.

The bacteria is not airborne but can be spread by touch, so babies found to be carrying it were being cared for in a separate area.

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One of the two babies carrying the bacteria was displaying signs of infection, but was responsing well to antibiotics, medics confirmed.

Dr David Booth, consultant neonatologist, said: 'As a precaution we are screening babies currently in NICU for this type of Klebsiella.

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'In NICU babies Klebiella can cause infections, and any signs of infection will be treated with antibiotics.'

The two cases were discovered earlier this week by clinical testing, with an information sheet circulated to parents and babies screened on Wednesday.

It is understood that it takes 48-hours for results to come back, and they were not available at the time of going to print.

The data sheet - shared with parents - stated that the bacteria is resistant to some antibiotics, but the hospital has 'very effective' types of antibiotics to treat infections from the bacteria.

It added that if the germs were found on the skin or in the bowel but there were no signs of infection, antibiotics would not be needed.

Parents have been advised that they do not need to do anything differently, but must be sure to wash their hands on entry and leaving the unit and use the alcohol gel, and wash their hands after touching their baby.

The NICU at the N&N can care for 42 babies at any one time, and cares for more than 850 babies per year.

It is the only unit in Norfolk that provides the highest level of neonatal intensive care - level three - with the next nearest unit at the Rosie Hospital in Cambridge.

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