SEOUL, Dec. 19 (Korea Bizwire) — Health authorities said early Tuesday that three of the four newborns who died successively in an intensive care unit last week may have been infected with an antibiotics-resistant virus.
The Korea Center for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDCP) revealed its interim result on the preliminary blood culture tests of the three premature babies, who died over less than a two-hour period while being treated at the intensive care unit of Ewha Womans University Medical Center in western Seoul on Saturday.
The blood tests detected Citrobacter freundii, a type of gram-negative bacteria, which is commonly found in a healthy human gut as a beneficial strain but can often cause respiratory, blood-related or urinary symptoms for immunocompromised patients, including premature babies, the KCDCP said.
A gram-negative bacteria is also antibiotics-resistant, raising the possibility of overuse resulting in or contributing to their deaths, it added.
On Monday, forensic doctors of the National Forensic Service carried out postmortem examinations on the bodies. It released a statement later that its preliminary assessment found no obvious cause of the deaths and anything certain can only be determined after conducting a detailed analysis through a microscope, which will take a few weeks.
The KCDCP has said it is carrying out a DNA sequencing to determine if the bacteria has the same identity and its result will be available as early as this afternoon.
The hospital has said its doctors in charge performed CPR on the babies when they showed signs of cardiac arrest. But the four died between 9:31 p.m. and 10:53 p.m. Families said the babies all had bloated bellies and difficulty breathing prior to the deaths.
The incident has sent shock waves through the country, with police, the Seoul city government and the KCDCP having launched a full investigation to find out the exact cause of the deaths.