Teikyo University Hospital said Friday that since late last year 27 out of 46 patients infected with an antibiotic-resistant bacterium called Acinetobacter have died, including nine whose deaths are possibly attributable to the superbug that the hospital did not report until Thursday.
The first death occurred last October, said the hospital in Itabashi Ward, Tokyo. It launched an in-house investigation panel this July but did not make an announcement.
Acinetobacter bacteria are microbes found in many parts of the environment, including sewage, soil and water. They are resistant to most antibiotics, but certain cephem antibiotics are effective in treating Acinetobacter infections, according to the hospital.
On Saturday, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government also announced that three inpatients at the same hospital have been infected with another antibiotic-resistant bacterium, multidrug-resistant Pseudomonas aeruginosa, with one suspected fatality.
The hospital reported the three cases to the metro government Thursday at the same time as it reported the outbreak of Acinetobacter infections, the officials said.
Police on Monday will likely question a doctor at the hospital on a voluntary basis, suspecting professional negligence resulting in death, investigative sources said.
The nine patients, who possibly died due to in-hospital infection with Acinetobacter, were men and women aged from 53 to 89, according to the hospital. They were suffering from immunological deterioration as a result of such diseases as leukemia and renal insufficiency before they passed away between October last year and this August, the hospital said.
Healthy people are not at a high risk of infection, according to experts.
Of the 18 other deaths, 12 were unrelated to the infection while a connection between six deaths and the infection has yet to be found.
It is still unknown how the 46 patients came to be infected with the bacteria. Currently, nine are being treated in a special ward, the hospital said.
The metro government said Friday it had received no report on Acinetobacter infection from the Teikyo hospital when it conducted an on-site inspection jointly with the central government last month.
The hospital should have submitted a report no later than July, when it set up an in-house investigation committee, the metro government added. The hospital informed the ministry and the Tokyo government of the infection cases Thursday.
“We have addressed the cases with the treatment of patients in mind but should have made them public earlier,” Shigeho Morita, director of the hospital, told reporters Friday.
Despite the announcement of the 46 cases of infection, the pseudomonal cases were not revealed Friday by either the hospital or the metro government.
A Tokyo government official explained Saturday that it did not give out the information as infections with Pseudomonas aeruginosa, unlike Acinetobacter, are not uncommon and that the incidence of infection was small.
Pseudomonal infection was detected in three patients in the same hospital ward between June and August, of whom one suffering from heart disease died on Aug. 24 of blood poisoning brought on by a bacterial infection, the official said, adding that there is a strong possibility the pseudomonal bacterium was to blame for the death.
In Aichi Prefecture, 24 inpatients at Fujita Health University Hospital have been infected with Acinetobacter since February, hospital officials said.
Six of the 24 patients have died, but the fatalities are probably not linked to the infection, according to a local public health center.
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