Infection control specialists used DNA testing to trace the Pseudomonas bacterium to equipment used to measure and administer breast milk donors. Geisinger said it has since gone to use disposable equipment. Hospital officials emphasized that the milk itself was not the source of the exposure.
"We have not had any new cases of infants who became ill with pseudomonas in the NICU since he made this change," Dr. Edward Hartle, Geising's chief executive officer and chief medical officer, said in a statement.
Pseudomonas bacteria are common and often harmless but may pose a health risk to fragile patients.
Geisinger, who runs one of Pennsylvania's largest health care networks, has sent much to premature newborns and some expectant mothers to other facilities while investigating the outbreak. The hospital said it will continue to do so because it is consulting with state health officials about when it can resume normal surgery.
"We would like to extend our sincere apologies to the families affected by this incident. We know that the public adheres to the highest standards and we will continue to strive to meet the expectations we have throughout our history and constantly improve what we do and how we do it, ”Hartle said.
The parents of one of the newborns who died at Geisinger filed last month, accusing hospital officials of failing to protect their son from the deadly bacterial infection that had already killed two other premature children.
Their lawyer Matt Casey – who also represents the family of the second child who died in the bacterial outbreak – said his investigation has revealed previous Pseudomonas infections in the Geisinger NICU, and at least one child died. But he said he does not yet know if these previous infections were the result of a problem with the hospital's breast milk equipment.
"An important aspect is to determine if this was an ongoing problem there. We now have further work to determine if these infection control procedures were defective for a longer period of time than Geisinger's statement suggests, "he said.
A spokesman at the hospital did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Casey's claim about the previous infections.