Monday 26 February 2018

One infant dead, 14 fighting for their lives in poison alert

Doctor examining infant
Doctor examining infant

Laura Donnelly, Rebecca Smith and Martin Evans

One baby has died and 14 others are fighting for their lives after being poisoned in NHS neonatal care units.

A public health alert was issued by British health chiefs last night after it emerged that all the newborns' infections were caused by a contaminated batch of nutrition drip.

The children were affected at neonatal intensive care units at six different hospitals, but the infected nutrition is believed to have been used in 22 hospitals across the UK. Officials said that one newborn baby has died while 14 more remain ill with blood poisoning, but were last night responding to antibiotics.

Medical regulators are investigating an incident which occurred last Thursday at a London manufacturing plant owned by ITH Pharma Ltd, affecting the liquid feed produced that day.

The contamination is believed to have been accidental rather than any act of sabotage.

All of the feeds which could be contaminated have since been recalled and regulators stressed that it was unlikely any were still in use as the batch has passed its use-by date.

Last night paediatric doctors 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.

Regulators said because the blood poisoning, caused by a common bacterium known as Bacillus cereus, develops quickly they were not anticipating further cases, although this could not be ruled out. The 15 babies were being treated in six neonatal intensive care units and many had been born prematurely.

The newborn died on Sunday at Guy's and St Thomas' Hospital in London, which is treating two other cases. Adam Finn, professor of paediatrics, University of Bristol, said: "When a medicine makes patients sick, it is everyone's worst nightmare. This contamination incident seems to have been detected quickly but, tragically, not quickly enough to save a life lost. Having stopped the outbreak, the next priority will be to understand how it came to happen."

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.

All neonatal intensive care units in the UK have been informed and a recall has been issued for any remaining batches of the liquid feed. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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