''Three infants were found to have the Vancomycin Resistant Enterococcal bacteria in their bloodstream,'' Ron Kromer, spokesman of the Hadassah University Hospital Mt Scopus, said on Monday.

 

The infants' condition has improved through antibiotic treatment and their lives are not in danger.

 

Six more babies were found to have the bacteria in their stool, although they are not clinically ill, Dr Ilan Arad, the head of the ward, said, adding that all the infants had been placed in isolation.

 

''Since premature babies have weak immune systems and

because in premature units there are many invasive treatments, bacteria are common,'' he told Israel Radio.

 

Drug resistant

 

Dr Arad said: ''The problem is when the bacteria are resistant, although fortunately the bacteria we are talking about are not considered violent and certainly not aggressive.''

 

It could take days or even weeks
to rid the ward of the bacteria

The bacteria are resistant to the Vancomycin antibiotic,
and the infants are being treated with an alternative medicine.

 

Until the bacteria - which can cause breathing difficulties and sometimes a change in blood-sugar levels - are cleared out of the ward, the hospital is sending expectant mothers giving birth prematurely to other Jerusalem area hospitals, Kromer said.

 

The general maternity ward is operating as usual, however. 

 

In case of an emergency, Mt Scopus has set up a sterile room with intensive care equipment, where premature babies could receive initial treatment until they are transferred to another hospital, Kromer said.

 

Matter of time

 

It could take days or even weeks to clear the bacteria out of the ward, Kromer said.

 

''We have not had a case like this, so we don't know exactly how to deal with such a situation.''

 

''We have not had a case like this, so we don't know exactly how to deal with such a situation''

Ron Kromer,
Mt Scopus Hospital spokesman

Anton Anastas, the father of quintuplets, born two months ago at Mt Scopus, said he was told on Sunday that two of his children were found with the bacteria in their stool, although they are not ill.

 

''We are towards the end. In a week one of the children is coming home, the week after that a second child is coming home and the remainder ... within three weeks all of my children are coming home,'' Anastas told Israel Radio.''