23 Jun 2017

Four babies die at Suva hospital after superbug infection

7:56 am on 23 June 2017

Precautions are being taken at the main hospital in Fiji's capital after four babies died there over the past three weeks.

Antibiotic testing in a petri dish (file photo)

Measures were being taken as a precaution after the infection, officials said (file photo). Photo: AFP / ABO / Science Photo Library

Fiji's Ministry of Health has quarantined parts of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit where the babies were treated.

The government said they died at the Colonial War Memorial Hospital from pre-existing life-threatening conditions, including pneumonia and severe prematurity.

It said tests on the babies revealed they had contracted the same bacterial infection but there was no evidence the bacterium caused their deaths.

The bacterium involved, Acinetobacter baumanii, has been listed by the World Health Organisation as one of the world's most dangerous superbugs, which are resistant to antibiotics.

The government said all new neonatal admissions requiring intensive care were being treated in areas of the neonatal intensive care unit where there was no serious risk of bacterial infection.

"We are taking every action to minimise the risk of bacterial infection, and we are working closely with local expert staff from the World Health Organisation to ensure our work is in line with international best practise," said Permanent Secretary for Health Phillip Davies.

"I must stress again that there is no evidence that any infant deaths have been caused by infection from this bacterium."

The government has sought to allay concerns, saying hundreds of millions of patients around the world contract healthcare-associated infections each year.

It said bacterial infections, including from Acinetobacter baumanii, are an ever-present risk for hospitals in every country in the world, particularly in intensive care units.

It said in developed countries approximately 30 percent of patients admitted to an intensive care unit were affected by at least one healthcare-associated infection.