Tuesday 24 October 2017

Contaminated drips infect three more babies as outbreak spreads

St Thomas' Hospital in London. PA
St Thomas' Hospital in London. PA

Rebecca Smith

Three more babies in England have suffered blood poisoning from contaminated drip feeds, it has emerged, as the manufacturers said the bug was found in a raw ingredient sent to them.

The three babies became ill last week and until now the cases had not been linked with the wider outbreak.

The new cases were at Peterborough City Hospital, South- end University Hospital and Basildon University Hospital.

There have been a total of 18 cases and one death, a spokesman for Public Health England (PHE) has said.


The babies, who are responding to treatment with antibiotics, contracted blood poisoning after being given liquid feeds through a tube into their veins. The fluids were found to be contaminated with a bacteria.

No babies have fallen ill since Tuesday when batches of the infected feeds, which had been sent to 22 hospitals, passed their use-by-date. Any remaining stocks have been recalled.

Meanwhile the manufacturer, ITH Pharma issued a statement saying the source of the contamination has been found to be a single raw ingredient used in the liquid feeds.

The bags of feed, said to be one of the most complex pharmaceutical products in use, contains up to 50 different chemicals.

The company said the source of the contamination has been found to be a single element, which may be a vitamin or lipid fats. It not known what company supplied that ingredient.

In a statement yesterday, Karen Hamling, managing director of ITH Pharma said: "From investigations carried out so far, it would appear the potential contamination is linked to a sourced single raw material ingredient."

The company is believed to be using the same supplier for the ingredient but has discarded the contaminated batch. Ms Hamling refused to comment further on the suspected cause.

Medical regulators are investigating an incident which occurred last Thursday at the company's London manufacturing plant.

Paediatric doctors on Wednesday said the contamination was "every parent's worst nightmare" and that urgent action must be taken to improve the safety of processes to produce such nutrition.

The blood poisoning, caused by a common bacterium known as Bacillus cereus, develops quickly so any as yet undetected cases are expected to emerge very soon.

The newborns, most of whom were premature, were being fed through a tube into their bloodstream because they were too poorly to be mouth fed.

PHE and the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) are investigating.

The first case appeared at Chelsea and Westminster hospital on Saturday and then other London hospitals began to see cases over the weekend. It was thought to have been caused by infected bedding or similar products until cases began appearing elsewhere on Monday and Tuesday.

The final cases at Luton were diagnosed early on Wednesday and investigations soon identified the feed as the likely cause.

It is now known the first case appeared in Peterborough last Thursday but this had not been linked to the wider outbreak until today, a spokesman said.


ITH Pharma was founded by Adam Bloom and Karen Hamling, both trained pharmacists.

Late on Wednesday Ms Hamling issued a statement through lawyers saying ITH Pharma was "very saddened to hear about the death of a baby in hospital, and that 14 others are ill with septicaemia".

Speaking on Good Morning Britain, Dr Deborah Turbitt, London Deputy Director of Health Protection for Public Health England, said: "This company has made products for years and years and years and there has not been a single incident like this.

"They have got very good processes to ensure that the product that goes out is sterile and is safe. It is a very unusual incident and we haven't seen any other babies become ill."

(© Daily telegraph, London)

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