Health Officials Identify Source Of Serratia Contamination


By Lisa Blackwell

The source of deadly bacteria that killed 9 people last month has been identified.

Alabama Department of Health says they now know the point at which the serratia marcescens contamination occurred.

The outbreak which affected 19 patients in six Alabama hospitals, was linked to TPN supplied by Meds IV Pharmacy in Birmingham.

In a press conference State Health Officer Don Williamson traced the process through which TPN is produced. He says the source of the outbreak comes down to a failure at one point in that process.

Samples of the organism serratia marcescens, an exact match to the organism found in the 19 cases of people infected with the bacteria, were found on a faucet used to rinse a mixing container and stirrer and in the amino acid powder used to make TPN.

Williamson says a failure in the sterilization step of the process allowed the bacteria to pass through the rest of production and get into the final product TPN. Williamson says they will investigate what went wrong in the sterilizing process.

They know that the correct filter was used, but they do not know if it was used properly.

Don Williamson, State Health Officer, says “Based on everything we know at this point it clearly linked to the compounding of the TPN in that pharmacy and the most likely source of failure was somehow in the sterilizing process.”

Williamson says other people received TPN but did not grow organisms in their blood. Officials will be looking to see if they got sick, were on antibiotics or had no reaction so they can get a good idea of the total outbreak…but it’s unlikely they will find additional people with it growing in their blood.
Williamson says he expects the investigation to continue for at least a few more weeks.

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