Israel's Barzilai Hospital Takes Precautions After Outbreak Kills One Preemie

Nine of 13 in neonatal unit tested positive for Klebsiella, but none showed clinical signs of any diseases associated with the bacterium.

One infant has died and several more are seriously ill due to an outbreak of an antibiotic-resistant strain of a common bacterium in the preemie ward of Ashkelon's Barzilai Medical Center.

A baby who was born on January 7 died four days after being diagnosed with a serious intestinal illness. Hospital officials said that after Klebsiellawas detected in the infant's blood in the course of his hospitalization, the head of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, Dr. Shmuel Zangan, ordered tests for the presence of the bacterium for all the infants in the unit.

Fecal samples from nine of the 13 newborns in the unit tested positive for Klebsiella. Hospital officials stressed, however, that none of these babies showed clinical signs of any of the diseases associated with the bacterium. As a preventive measure the infants who did test positive were isolated from the other babies in the unit and treated with antibiotics, which according to the hospital were of the type still effective against Klebsiella.

"Only the bacterium was detected in the nine neonatal [babies], and not any active disease that could endanger them. The bacterium is not virulent, and treatment is available if needed," the hospital said in a statement.

In 2008 the Health Ministry established the National Center for Infection Control in the wake of news reports about the spread in hospitals of the Klebsiella bacterium, which had developed resistance to many types of antibiotics.

The center's first action, which was reported in the medical literature, was an effort to combat the spread of Klebsiella using a number of means including patient isolation and monitoring of the bacterium in 27 Israeli hospitals. It succeeded in reducing the incidence of Klebsiella infection among hospital patients throughout Israel by 75 percent within one year.