9 dead after infection outbreak in Ala hospitals

March 29, 2011 4:40:04 PM PDT
Nine Alabama hospital patients who were treated with contaminated intravenous feeding bags have died and the maker has pulled the product off the market, state health officials said Tuesday.

Ten more people treated with the bags that provide nutrients through IV tubes also were sickened by the outbreak of serratia marcescens bacteria, health officials said. However, officials have not definitively tied the deaths to the bacterial outbreak at six hospitals, State Health Officer Donald Williamson said.

"There is nothing to suggest the deaths were directly related to the bacterial infection," says Williamson.

On March 16, two hospitals reported increased cases of serratia marcescens to the Alabama Department of Public Health. Officials linked the infection to TPN, a common nutritional supplement delivered by IV tubes.

A single pharmacy, Birmingham-based Meds IV, made the bags. Williamson said the company has notified its customers of the contamination and discontinued production.

When Select Specialty Hospital in Birmingham learned one of its suppliers may have distributed bags containing the bacteria, it started investigating and stopped using the Meds IV product, said the hospital's chief executive officer.

"We are committed to high-quality patient care and are fully cooperating with government officials in their ongoing investigation of the supplier," said Jeffrey Denney.

Meds IV did not immediately return calls seeking comment. Besides Select Specialty, other hospitals hit with the outbreak were Baptist Princeton, Baptist Shelby, Medical West and Cooper Green in the Birmingham area and Baptist Prattville, north of Montgomery.

The state health department, Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, and the Food and Drug Administration are investigating. Williamson said the risk of more patients being exposed to the bacteria has ended.

"There are no outstanding cases of this infection. It is contained and closed" says Williamson.