Contaminated drip causes baby death and illness of 14 others

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A hospital feed manufacturer that has been linked to the death of a baby and the illness of 14 others has expressed its sadness by these events.

Karen Hamling, the managing director of ITH Pharma, said that the company will co-operate fully with official health inquiries in a bid to establish the facts related to this case.

The baby died at St Thomas’ Hospital in south London due to blood poisoning that is said to have been caused by contaminated drip food. Public Health England (PHE) stated that the babies who were at six different hospitals developed septicaemia from the Bacillus cereus bacterium.

ITH Pharma is a manufacturer of parenteral nutrition, which is provided to babies who are in neonatal intensive care units. The related products are no longer in circulation, but were manufactured to order daily for the individual patients, based on the orders received from hospitals.

PHE stated that the death and illness of the babies have a strong link to a specific number of batches of the intravenous liquid manufactured by ITH Pharma.

The director of health protection at PHE, Paul Cosford, stated that a point of contamination may have been identified.

The babies were given the feed by intravenous drip as they were unable to be fed by mouth. The hospitals where the cases were reported are:

• Addenbrooke’s, Cambridge University Hospital – two patients
• Brighton and Sussex University Hospital NHS Trust – three patients
• Chelsea and Westminster NHS Trust, London – four patients
• Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, London – three patients
• Luton and Dunstable University Hospital – two patients
• The Whittington Hospital, London – one patient

The hospitals said the babies who had survived are responding well to antibiotics and their parents have been informed.

The pharmaceutical company involved in these cases has issued a product recall and all hospitals have been alerted.

Doctors have been advised on the identification of potential infection cases and how to dispose of the stock that may be affected.

The incident director at PHE, Professor Mike Catchpole, said that the bacteria are spread widely in the environment and due to this any possible infection sources are being investigated. However, to date all investigations indicate that the source of the infection has been accurately identified. He said that PHE had acted quickly and along with MHRA taken action to ensure that all affected batches and any remaining stock be removed from hospitals.

MHRA’s Adam Burgess, said that inspectors have been seconded to the manufacturing facility to do a rigorous, detailed inspection and to ensure that all the potentially infected medicine be recalled.

Officials have stated that they are not expecting any more cases to be reported.

The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health’s Dr Martin Ward Platt said that blood poisoning caused by Bacillus cereus is an extremely rare event. He said that a baby suffering from this serious infection may display high fever, with lapses in their breathing, along with vomiting. Suspected infections should be treated as quickly as possible or it could result in a fatality.

He further added that parents of babies in intensive care should discuss their concerns with the doctors and nurses caring for their baby.

Image Credit: Soham Banerjee

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