Third baby dies from contaminated 'Total Parenteral Nutrition' drip feed


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A third baby has been confirmed to have died as a result of poisoning from a contaminated drip feed, public health officials have said.

The infant, who has not been named, died at Cambridge’s Addenbrooke’s Hospital on Sunday night. The hospital has not released the name or sex of the baby, but confirmed that the infant was given the contaminated drip feed more than a month ago on 27 May.

The baby did not immediately develop blood poisoning so investigators did not initially realise the illness was linked to the contaminated feed.

In total 23 cases have been linked to a contamination of a batch of drip feed distributed to NHS hospitals throughout the country at the end of May. Health officials believe that the contamination, which occurred at the factory where the drip feeds are made, was an “isolated incident”. There have been no new infections since 2 June.

The product, an intravenous liquid called Total Parenteral Nutrition (TPN) is manufactured by a private company, ITH Pharma. The contaminated drips were found to be carrying a strain of the Bacillus cereus bacteria, which is believed to have infected the babies, most of whom were premature, causing blood poisoning.

Public Health England (PHE) and drugs regulator the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) are reaching “the final stages of their investigation into the outbreak”, they said today.

They said that TPN products produced by ITH Pharma after the date of 27 May did not carry the bacteria. 

Professor Mike Catchpole, PHE’s incident director, said: “There are still some elements of our investigation that need finalising but the main findings have all pointed towards there being a single incident that occurred on one day and was associated with the illness seen in the babies. We are reassured that this was a very rare occurrence as we have not seen this particular strain of bacteria in any product made since that day and there has been no further illness.”

Gerald Heddell, the MHRA’s director of inspection, enforcement and standards, said: “At this stage, our investigation has provided sufficient evidence to indicate that the contamination was introduced into the specific TPN supplies during manufacture in a particular sterile manufacturing area at ITH Pharma on 27 May 2014. 

“There is no evidence to suggest that individual ingredients, components or materials used for the manufacture of TPN on 27 May 2014 were the cause of the contamination. However, what we do know from our investigation is that the strain of Bacillus cereus which infected the babies has also been identified at ITH Pharma’s manufacturing facility and within some of the unopened TPN supplies manufactured on 27 May 2014. 

“From our investigation to date, we continue to believe this was an isolated incident and that appropriate immediate action has been taken at ITH Pharma’s facility to avoid a recurrence. Therefore we are allowing this critical product to be supplied to patients while our investigation continues.”