Father tells of drip baby anguish

Bicester Advertiser: The baby was being treated in the neonatal intensive care unit at St Thomas' Hospital in London The baby was being treated in the neonatal intensive care unit at St Thomas' Hospital in London

The father of a nine-day-old baby who died after contracting an infection from a suspected contaminated drip has spoken of the anguish of watching his newborn son suffer.

Yousef Al-Kharboush died on Sunday after contracting a bacterial infection at the neonatal intensive care unit at St Thomas' Hospital in London.

It has since emerged that 21 babies across 10 hospitals in England, including Yousef, have been struck down with blood poisoning brought on by an infection "strongly linked" to an intravenous fluid supplied by London-based pharmaceutical firm ITH Pharma.

Three new cases were confirmed by Public Health England today.

The youngsters were given a batch of a fluid called parenteral nutrition, which is supposed to deliver a variety of nutrients intravenously when a baby is unable to eat on its own.

Speaking at a pre-inquest review at Southwark Coroner's Court, Yousef's father Raaid Hassan Sakkijha said: "My son has just died. I don't want more children to.

"If you looked at Yousef, he was dying because of this product. He was suffering. He died because of this."

He added: "Everyone who has a child will understand what a father feels like in a case like this, with suffering before your eyes.

"I was hoping to hear this product would be completely stopped from production until they make sure that ... no other babies are being contaminated.

"I won't have a baby in the next nine months but I hope other people who have babies will be safe."

Representatives from Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust and ITH Pharma, including managing director Karen Hamling, attended the hearing before Southwark coroner Andrew Harris.

Both organisations are carrying out investigations along with that of the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

Consultant neonatologist Karen Turnock, from St Thomas' Hospital, said Yousef became "increasing unstable" before his death and tests showed evidence of a bacterium known as bacillus cereus.

No evidence has been found to suggest the bacillus cereus came from another source, she added.

During the hearing, Mr Sakkijha voiced concern over the long-term health issues of other babies affected.

"How do we know this solution will not have an effect at a later stage, in one or two years?" he asked. "How can we guarantee this will not happen?"

When Ms Hamling was asked by Dr Harris if any other ITH Pharma products posed a risk, she replied: "Absolutely not."

Dr Harris ruled that a post-mortem examination would not be performed on Yousef, from London Bridge, central London, following a request from his family.

ITH Pharma has said the suspected contamination has been traced to a "sourced" single raw material ingredient but the company has not been drawn on details of the material it received from one of its suppliers.

After the hearing, Mr Sakkijha revealed Yousef - who was born eight weeks prematurely - had a twin, and Mr Sakkijha has two other children aged 10 and seven.

"They cried at the beginning but, you know children, they forget," Mr Sakkijha said.

"They were planning to distribute the children, one for you and one for me. They lost one and they were crying all day."

The suspected contaminated batch of a food supplement was sent to 22 hospitals, according to an alert on the MHRA's website.

But confirmed and probable cases have only been identified in 10 hospitals.

Public Health England (PHE) today said health officials had identified three further cases, bringing the total number to 21.

The cases were identified after analysis of clinical records of the babies, a spokeswoman said.

The latest probable cases were identified at Stoke Mandeville Hospital in Buckinghamshire, Chelsea and Westminster NHS Trust in London, and Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge.

Health officials have identified four other cases of septicaemia - which occurred after the youngsters were infected with bacillus cereus - at Chelsea and Westminster, one case at the Whittington Hospital in London, three at the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton, two at Addenbrooke's, one at Peterborough City Hospital, and two at Luton and Dunstable University Hospital.

Officials said there were also two possible cases in Essex - one at Southend University Hospital and another at Basildon University Hospital

Three cases were confirmed in babies being treated at St Thomas' Hospital, including Yousef.

It is understood that all of the other cases are responding to treatment with antibiotics.

Brian McCloskey, PHE incident director, said: "PHE has been working closely with the neonatal units who received the potentially contaminated batches of Total Parental Nutrition.

"All babies who received the potentially contaminated feed have been closely monitored and we have been actively looking at previous case records for any signs of the infection. Because of this, earlier cases are now being included in our total numbers.

"Although there is a possibility that babies who developed an infection last week or over last weekend will continue to be reported as a result of our investigations, due to the time that has passed since the product expired, we can be reasonably sure that this number will be very small, but we are keeping a close eye on the situation."

Gerald Heddell, the MHRA's director of inspection, enforcement and standards, said: "We have inspected the ITH Pharma facility as part of our investigation into the potentially affected batches of intravenous liquid.

"Based on the information we currently have, we believe this is an isolated incident and the appropriate immediate action has been taken at ITH Pharma's facility to avoid a reoccurrence. Therefore we are allowing this critical product to be supplied to patients while our investigation proceeds.

"At this stage, we believe the facility is operating in accordance with good manufacturing practice guidelines but further inspections will be made as part of our ongoing investigation."

Bacillus cereus is found in dust, soil and vegetation. It produces very hardy spores which in the right conditions can grow and create a toxin which causes illness, and it is likely to be on most surfaces.

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