KCDC confirms same bacteria killed 3 babies

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KCDC confirms same bacteria killed 3 babies

The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) said that the genetic test on the bacteria found in three out of the four infants who died at Ewha Womans University Medical Center in western Seoul revealed the bacteria were of the same type, which means there was a single source - possibly one medical staff member.

“The genetic test on the Citrobacter freundii bacteria found in the blood of the three infants showed that they were all of the same type,” said Hong Jung-ik, head of the emergency response department of the KCDC. “This means it is quite likely the three infants got infected from the same source.”

One common factor found among the four infants was that they were treated with total parenteral nutrition (TPN), which means that doctors fed them by injecting fluids into their veins.

All born prematurely, the four infants had to be treated this way because they could not be fed by mouth.

“The hospital does not have records on the bacteria in the past few months,” said Ki Mo-ran, professor on cancer control at National Cancer Center Graduate School of Cancer Science and Policy in Goyang, Gyeonggi. “This means that the bacteria likely spread from a medical staff to the infants in the process of TPN treatment.”

TPN fluids are mixed by medical staff based on the patient’s nutritional needs.

“Problems can develop due to use of the TPN or IV lines,” says the U.S. National Library of Medicine on its website. “A serious infection called sepsis is a possible complication of a central line IV.”

“But it’s too early to confirm that the bacteria spread through TPN treatment,” Ki said, “because one other infant at the unit received the same treatment but did not die.”

“We are leaving all possibilities open in our investigation, including a possible fault of the medical staff, excessive use of antibiotics or use of infected medicines,” Lee Han-young, head of NFS Seoul Institute. “We should not narrow down the possible cause of death to bacteria at this point.”

The specific type of Citrobacter freundii bacteria found in the three infants was antibiotic-resistant.

The parents of the four infants who died at the Ewha hospital and some medical staff held a meeting on Wednesday, but it ended after 23 minutes.

“The doctors and nurses who were treating our babies did not even show up at the meeting,” said the father of one of the infants who died. “We have put our lives on hold since the deaths, but the medical staff is not taking this seriously.”

Police raided the intensive care unit for newborns at Ewha Womans University Medical Center in Yangcheon District, western Seoul, on Tuesday. They plan to question the nurses who had the most contact with the infants.

BY HONG SANG-JI, ESTHER CHUNG [chung.juhee@joongang.co.kr]
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