B.C. hospital tries to contain 'superbug'

Three premature babies with methicillin-resistant staphylococcus isolated at B.C. Children's Hospital

An outbreak of an antibiotic-resistant strain of bacteria among newborn babies at the B.C. Children's Hospital has doctors worried.

Three premature babies tested positive for methicillin-resistant staphylococcus (MRSA) during screening last week.

The infants will likely be kept in isolation for three to four months, a doctor at the hospital said on the weekend.

The three babies have so far shown no symptoms, said Dr. Alfonso Solimano, who runs the hospital's special care nursery.

Although they are carrying the bacteria, they may not develop an infection, he said. The tests found MRSA, often referred to as a "superbug," living on the babies' skin.

MRSA is resistant to common antibiotics, such as penicillin and methicillin, but it can be treated with vancomycin as a last resort.

In addition to the MRSA outbreak, the hospital has isolated another six babies who have a less serious flu-like virus.

The hospital also isolated an additional 22 babies because they had come in contact with the affected children.

Solimano said the two outbreaks have put a tremendous strain on the nursery.

Most of the babies in his care are premature, or sick, or both, the doctor said.

He said if the outbreaks intensify, he may have to consider sending sick babies to hospitals outside the province.

One baby died of the bacteria during an epidemic at the hospital two years ago.

Solimano said the latest outbreak brings back painful memories.

"We had a total of 47 babies that became colonized, and we had a total of 11 or 12 babies that were actually ill," he said. "Amongst these babies, there was one baby that died with this bacteria."