Nicola Sturgeon said all necessary steps were being taken
The source of an infection that contributed to the deaths of two premature babies in the latest outbreak to hit Scotland’s NHS may never be found, experts have admitted.
The infants were being cared for in a neonatal unit at the Princess Royal Maternity Hospital in Glasgow, where a third baby that was also infected and is in “stable” condition.
The tragedy emerged days after a separate infection linked to pigeon droppings was named as a contributory factor in the deaths of two patients, including a schoolboy, at the city’s Queen Elizabeth University Hospital (QEUH).
The deaths of the premature babies was partly due to the Staphylococcus aureus blood stream infection, which can be passed through skin to skin contact.
Dr Alan Mathers, chief of medicine at NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, said staff at the maternity hospital performed “miracles every day” and had been “devastated” by the deaths.
He said the premature babies were among the "most vulnerable patients" in the country, adding that “it may be that we don’t ever get to the root of the problem”. ”The issue is that everyone carries bacteria in their skin and are colonised by these things, that is very different from an infection,” said Dr Mathers.
The babies died at the Princess Royal Maternity Hospital
"The premature baby has lots of systems that are just not ready for the world, including its immune system, and any breach in the fragility of these babies can lead to bacteria that would otherwise not bother us.”
An incident management team has been set up to investigate the three cases of “staph” infection in the unit.
It was said to be one of a number contributing causes in both deaths and Dr Mathers told BBC Radio Scotland that because the infants had been born "very prematurely" there had always been "a potentially high chance of a poor outcome”.
Jason Leitch, national clinical director at NHS Scotland, insisted the health service was on top of infection control and claimed there was "no better place in the western world" for premature babies to be cared for than in Scotland’s neonatal units.
He added: "These units are safe and if your baby is premature and requires intensive care, this is exactly the place you want your baby to be.”
He said cases of the infection in the NHS in Scotland had fallen by 93 per cent in the last 10 years and were “rare” events.
Nicola Sturgeon expressed her "heartfelt and sincere condolences" to the parents during First Minister’s Questions and said the health board was “taking all necessary steps”.
She added: "Staphylococcus aureus is, unfortunately, not an uncommon infection in people in hospital, including neonatal babies, and indeed that infection can be found in around one in four people.
"So, that makes it all the more important that hospitals have in place rigorous infection control procedures.”
She told MSPs the primary concern of the government and the health board was “the safety and wellbeing of patients and their families at all time”.
The latest infection emerged as prosecutors continue to look into two unconnected deaths at QEUH, where a 10-year-old boy and a 73-year-old woman died after contracting the Cryptococcus infection.