By Evie Andreou
A premature baby who died in the neonatal intensive care unit at the Makarios Hospital in Nicosia was a carrier of the acinetobacter bacteria that has also infected several other infants, the health ministry said in an announcement on Monday.
The ministry, which said that the condition of the other infected infants is stable, did not specify whether the bacterial infection was the actual cause of death.
According to the announcement, the baby, which was born at 25 weeks, had been in the ICU since birth and was supported by a ventilator because it was suffering from respiratory distress syndrome. At 12 days old, the baby’s condition deteriorated. Its haemoglobin levels fell and it went into a circulatory failure (shock). Around 12 hours later it died.
“The baby died 12 hours after the start of the deterioration of its condition and pending further laboratory results and blood cultures, despite the efforts of doctors and the multifaceted treatment it received,” the announcement said.
The lab tests indicated that the baby was carrying acinetobacter. The bacterial infection was detected after the baby’s death since it required 48 hours for the completion of the lab tests.
In total, four newborns have been infected with the bacteria and have been confined in a separate area and given the required treatment.
“The condition of the newborn babies is stable and there is no cause for concern,” the ministry said.
The announcement said that all measures have been taken to contain the bacteria and containment measures were immediately taken by the medical staff.
All new admissions to the ICU are being treated in a separate area, the announcement said.
The head of the ICU, Christina Karaoli was quoted by state broadcaster CyBC as saying that very premature babies are susceptible to bacterial infections. She added that these babies are high risk, whether they suffer an infection or not.
Acinetobacter infections are uncommon and occur almost exclusively in hospitalised patients. It is especially prevalent in intensive care units.
The most vulnerable are patients who are on a ventilator, incubated and in those who have multiple intravenous lines or monitoring devices. It is often cultured from hospitalised patients’ sputum or respiratory secretions, wounds and urine. In a hospital setting, acinetobacter commonly colonises irrigating solutions and intravenous solutions.
Several acinetobacter species can cause life-threatening infections. Such species also exhibit a relatively broad degree of antibiotic resistance.
It poses very little risk to healthy people, but people who have weakened immune systems are more susceptible to the bacteria, which cause a variety of conditions, ranging from pneumonia to serious blood infections.
According to studies, acinetobacter infections are not uncommon in preterm ICUs and there are reports of infant deaths in other countries.
Both the health ministry and the hospital are closely monitoring the situation, the announcement said.