A hospital in Pennsylvania announced Friday that it was the Source has discovered a waterborne germ that made at least eight premature babies sick and killed three.
The Geisinger Medical Center in Danville reported that the process of manufacturing breast milk dispensers resulted in a fatal outbreak in the hospital's neonatal intensive care unit.
Infection control specialists used DNA testing to track the Pseudomonas bacterium to devices used to measure and administer breast milk donors. Geisinger said it had now switched to disposable devices. Hospital officials emphasized that the milk itself was not the source of the exposure.
"Since the change, there have been no new cases in the ICU where infants have contracted Pseudomonas," said Drs. Edward Hartle, executive vice president and chief of Geisinger physician, said in a statement.
Pseudomonas bacteria are widespread and often harmless, but can pose a health risk to fragile patients.
Geisinger, who runs one of Pennsylvania's largest health care networks, has very premature newborns and some of them expecting mothers to other facilities while investigating the outbreak. The hospital said it would continue to do so as it would consult with state health officials when to resume normal operations.
"We sincerely apologize to the families affected by this incident. We know that the public keeps us up to the highest standards, and we will continue to strive to live up to these expectations throughout our history, constantly improving what we do and how we do it, "said Hartle.
The parents of one of Geisinger's dead newborns filed a lawsuit last month alleging that hospital officials did not protect their son from the deadly bacterial infection that had already killed two other premature babies.
Her lawyer, Matt Casey – who also represents the second baby's family who died in the outbreak of bacteria – found that previous Pseudomonas infections occurred in the Geisinger ICU and that at least one baby had died. But he said he did not know yet whether these earlier infections were the result of a problem with the hospital's breastmilk equipment.
"One key aspect is to determine if this was a persistent problem there. We now have extra work to determine if these infection control procedures have been ineffective for a longer period of time than suggested in Geingerers statement.
A spokesman for the hospital declined to comment on Casey's allegation of the earlier infections, citing the pending lawsuit.