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Nine Dead from Infected IV Feeding Bags

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Birmingham, ALInvestigators working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta are working to determine what might have been the source of an infection passed along to 19 patients fed intravenously in six Alabama hospitals.

Nine of those patients have died, CNN reported late yesterday.

Investigators are quick to point out that their work is still in the preliminary stages, and cannot say with any degree of accuracy if the infection actually caused the deaths.

What is known is the strain of bacteria: serratia marcescens bacteremia, a nasty strain that can prove fatal. It has also been determined that the bacteria was found lurking within the contents of intravenous feeding bags used on the 19 patients. That, say officials, would provide the bacteria with a direct pathway to the bloodstream of patients receiving total parenteral nutrition.

The question is how the serratia marcescens bacteremia came to infect the contents of the feeding bags. CNN reported that the bags were recalled from the lone manufacturer on March 24. The manufacturer was identified as Meds IV, which is based in Birmingham.

As of today it was not clear how many patients in total, prior to the 19, might have been fed intravenously from the same lot of intravenous feeding bags.

Officials characterize the infection as an outbreak. As such, the underpinnings of the current situation actually began in late January, and was finally identified March 16 following the reporting of "unusual" bacteria among high-risk patients. Officials note that patients receiving the IV nutrition are already extremely ill and would have few resources in reserve to combat an infection.

The six hospitals were identified as Baptist Princeton, Baptist Shelby, Medical West, Cooper Green Mercy, Select Specialty and Baptist Prattville. So far, there is no indication that any of the six hospitals had done anything wrong in the administering of the IV nutrition. As of March 29, some of the 10 surviving patients who were infected remained hospitalized, although their conditions were not known.

While the outbreak was reported to have begun in late January, there was no word as to why it took until March 16 to formally identify it. The manufacturer is said to have not returned a phone call when contacted for comment by CNN.

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