By Peggy Gargis
BIRMINGHAM, Alabama (Reuters) - Nine patients in Alabama have died after receiving intravenous nutrition that authorities say was contaminated, but it was unclear whether the bacteria contributed to the deaths.
Alabama authorities said they were investigating an outbreak of Serratia marcescens bacteremia, a bacterial infection in the blood, in 19 patients at six hospitals in the state who all received total parenteral nutrition (TPN).
TPN is a nutritional solution fed to patients by injection.
"Of the 19 that received the substance, nine of those are no longer living ... These were very fragile individuals and it's not clear whether the bacteria contributed to their deaths," said Dr. Jim McVay, a senior official with the Alabama Department of Public Health.
Authorities identified bacteria first in the patients and then ran cultures on the TPN, he said.
"TPN is liquid nutrition fed through an IV using a catheter. Use of contaminated products may lead to bacterial infection of the blood," said a department statement.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is helping with an investigation, the department said.
"CDC's initial investigation identified TPN produced by a single pharmacy, Meds IV, as a potential common source and has determined that these hospitals received TPN from this pharmacy," the department said in a statement.
The pharmacy was notified and informed its customers of the possibility of contamination. On March 24, it recalled all of its IV compounded products and has discontinued all production.
The affected hospitals stopped using TPN received from this pharmacy, the statement said.
It said the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is aware of the voluntary recall, and that the pharmacy and the hospitals are cooperating with the investigation.
The affected hospitals are Baptist Princeton, Baptist Shelby, Baptist Prattville, Medical West, Cooper Green Mercy and Select Specialty Hospital in Birmingham.
(Editing by Matthew Bigg and Jerry Norton)