- Bacteria was found on skin of babies at Addenbrooke’s in Cambridge
- None of them were infected as the bug had not entered the bloodstream
- Rosie neonatal intensive care unit has stayed open despite the outbreak
One of Britain’s top hospitals has reported an outbreak of the MRSA superbug among babies in an intensive care unit.
The bacteria, which is resistant to most antibiotics, has been found on the skin of six babies at the Rosie Hospital at Addenbrooke’s in Cambridge.
None of them were infected as the bug had not entered the bloodstream, but to have MRSA present on an intensive care ward is of major concern – particularly among sick babies whose immune systems have not yet developed.
The MRSA superbug, which is resistant to most antibiotics, has been found on the skin of six babies at the Rosie Hospital at Addenbrooke’s in Cambridge
Every hospital has to check regularly for MRSA and other superbugs such as C. difficile, and all cases of infection have to be reported to Public Health England.
The Rosie neonatal intensive care unit, which has 36 beds and mostly cares for premature babies, has stayed open despite the outbreak. The affected babies were having treatment as a precaution while others on the ward were screened regularly.
The outbreak came to light after a ‘higher incidence of positive colonisation’ of the bug was noticed during routine monitoring.
‘MRSA colonisation means that the bacteria is simply “sitting on the skin” but is causing no harm to the person,’ Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Trust said.
MRSA is common, with a third of people carrying the bug naturally on their skin. While this is not usually a problem, in hospitals it is a major issue as it can be fatal if it enters the body and infects someone.
This usually happens if it enters the bloodstream via an open wound or contaminated equipment.
None of them were infected as the bug had not entered the bloodstream, but to have MRSA present on an intensive care ward is of major concern. Pictured is a computer generated image of the bacteria
The bug’s resistance to most antibiotics means it is hard to treat, and once a colonisation is present it can spread between wards on hands or clothes.
A Cambridge University Hospitals spokesman said: ‘As part of our routine monitoring for infection on the neonatal unit, a number of babies have been found to be carrying methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) on their skin.
‘We are treating all the MRSA carriers and screening other patients on the ward frequently to closely monitor the situation. Infection control is something we take very seriously and all measures to control the situation are being taken.’
It is not yet clear how MRSA entered the unit and Public Health England officials have been called in to assess the situation. Cambridge University Hospitals has only two recorded cases of MRSA infections in the past two years.
All patients have been informed of the outbreak.
Matthew Simms, 25, said his sister Sabrina, 29, had been waiting to be induced at the Rosie since she was admitted last Tuesday but the outbreak had held things up.
He said: ‘She’s very stressed because she’s got a child at home, she’s trying to deal with childcare and it’s making it a very stressful time for her.’
Last week a national audit revealed NHS maternity wards were putting newborns’ lives at risk as staff were failing to carry out basic checks. The report by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health found a quarter of the most seriously ill newborns were being allowed to become dangerously cold as their temperature was not closely monitored.
And one in seven mothers having high-risk labours were not given vital medication to prevent babies developing breathing difficulties.
Experts say NHS maternity services are struggling to cope with the pressures of migration, older mothers and soaring rates of IVF.