E.coli O157 & Haemolytic Uraemic Syndrome

Welsh health board investigates cases of ESBL E.coli

29th November 2011

Following recent deaths of two babies at Singleton Hospital in Swansea and a mother who tested positive for ESBL E.coli, Abertawe Bro Morgannwg (ABM) University Health Board has confirmed that one of the two initial cases of suspected ESBL E.coli cross infection has now been ruled out. 

Laboratory tests have confirmed that the mother initially suspected of contracting the bug at the hospital, has, in fact, been found to be carrying a different ESBL E.coli sub-type. A very small proportion of the general population carry ESBL E.coli harmlessly in their body, and this woman tested positive but had no symptoms. 

So far it is now known that one very premature baby, who sadly died, did contract ESBL E.coli from a cross infection in the maternity/neonatal unit at Singleton Hospital. 

This case was linked to three other confirmed cases of the same sub-type of ESBL E.coli which were contracted outside hospital. The cause of the infection in these three cases is not under investigation. Sadly, one of these cases was also a baby who died in the neonatal unit. 

On Friday (25th November) another baby tested positive for ESBL E.coli, but has shown no symptoms. Tests are now underway to see if this is the same sub-type as the cross-infection, or whether it is unconnected.

While these tests are underway, as a continuing precaution, the neonatal unit is restricted to routine admission for babies over 36 weeks gestation only. It is also taking additional precautions, including restricting visitors to the maternity unit, and continuing to ask visitors to wash their hands and use hand hygiene gel.

Checks of equipment and the environment in the maternity/neonatal unit have all been negative for the bacterium. The unit has an excellent record for hand-hygiene and general infection control adherence. Spot check audits of hand washing have reported 100% compliance, and reported infection levels in the unit have been below the national average in recent years.

Investigations into the cross infection have not yet identified how the ESBL E.coli was transmitted, but the health board continue to do all it can to determine the cause. However, in other similar instances of this kind elsewhere in the UK the cause of transmission was never identified.

A helpline number for any mothers-to-be who have queries or concerns is: 07747615627. In addition there is also a free phone number: 0800 952 0090

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