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Published On: Wed, Jun 4th, 2014

Bacillus cereus septicemia outbreak being investigated, linked to IV baby food

An outbreak of blood poisoning, or septicemia caused by the bacterium Bacillus cereus has sickened 15 babies in English hospital neonatal ICU’s, killing one infant, according to a Public Health England (PHE)/Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) investigation.

England, Wales

Image/CIA

Investigations are ongoing but so far indications show that the cases have been strongly linked with a number of batches of a particular form of intravenous liquid called parenteral nutrition which was given to the babies. This contains a variety of nutrients that are delivered directly into the babies’ bloodstream when they have problems ingesting food via their mouth. This batch of product is manufactured by ITH Pharma Limited.

Because this type of nutrition is given into the bloodstream of vulnerable babies and adults it is manufactured under strictly controlled aseptic conditions. Investigations with the company have identified an incident that might have caused the contamination. Investigations into this by MHRA are ongoing and inspectors from MHRA are visiting the manufacturing plant.

The product has a short shelf life and although it is unlikely that any stock from the day of contamination incident remains (it expired on 02/06/14). MHRA has issued a Class 1 drug alert to support the manufacturer’s recall of the product this afternoon.

The outbreak has affected the following hospitals in England: Chelsea and Westminster NHS Trust (4 cases), Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust (3 cases), The Whittington Hospital (1 case), Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust (3 cases), CUH Addenbrookes (Cambridge University Hospitals) (2 cases) and Luton and Dunstable University Hospital (2 cases).

Although the affected product was only issued to a limited number of neonatal units an alert has been issued to all neonatology units across the UK to make them aware of the incident.  Doctors have been given advice on what steps they need to take to identify any potential cases of infection and how to dispose of affected stock.

Professor Mike Catchpole, PHE incident director, said: “This is a very unfortunate incident and PHE have been working closely with MHRA to investigate how these babies could have become infected. Given that the bacteria is widely spread in the environment we are continuing to investigate any other potential sources of infection. However all our investigations to date indicate that the likely source of the infection has been identified. We have acted quickly to investigate this issue alongside MHRA and we have taken action to ensure that the affected batches and any remaining stock of this medicine is not being used in hospitals.”

Adam Burgess, MHRA’s manager of the Defective Medicines Reporting Centre, said: “Patient safety is our top priority and we are working alongside Public Health England to establish what has happened. We have sent inspectors to the manufacturer’s facility to carry out a detailed and rigorous inspection and we have ensured that the potentially affected medicine is recalled.”

Bacillus cereus, a common cause of food poisoning,  is a bacteria found widely in the environment in dust, soil and vegetation. Most surfaces would be likely to test positive for the presence of the bacteria. Bacillus cereus produces very hardy spores and in the right conditions these will grow. The spores can produce a toxin which causes illness. For more infectious disease news and information, visit and “like” the Infectious Disease News Facebook page

About the Author

- Writer, Co-Founder and Executive Editor of The Global Dispatch. Robert has been covering news in the areas of health, world news and politics for a variety of online news sources. He is also the Editor-in-Chief of the website, Outbreak News Today and hosts the podcast, Outbreak News Interviews on iTunes, Stitcher and Spotify Robert is politically Independent and a born again Christian Follow @bactiman63

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  1. England NICU Bacillus cereus outbreak now at 21 cases, one death - The Global Dispatch says:

    […] an update on  story from Wednesday, Public Health England (PHE) has issued new numbers and information of the Bacillus cereus outbreak […]

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