THREE newborn babies contracted blood poisoning through their drips at a neo-natal intensive care unit.

The babies are being treated for septicaemia at the Royal Sussex County Hospital, Brighton, causedby a bacteria known as bacillus cereus.

The bacteria has been traced back to a batch of food known as “parenteral [corr] nutrition” which was fed to the newborn babies via a saline drip.

In total 15 babies have been affected at six trusts across the country and has claimed the life of one infant.

An investigation by Public Health England (PHE) and the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has been launched.

The three affected babies in Brighton, who were either born prematurely or were on the ward for medical reasons, are said to be responding well to antibiotics after contracting the bug over the weekend.

The food batch has now been withdrawn following an investigation, even though the product has a short shelf life and it is unlikely that any stock from the day of contamination is still in circulation.

The liquid, manufactured by London-based ITH Pharma Limited, is designed to deliver nutrients intravenously to a baby when they are unable to eat on their own.

Inspectors from the MHRA have been sent to the manufacturer's facility to carry out “a detailed and rigorous inspection”.

A Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust spokesman said: “I can confirm that at the weekend three babies in the neo-natal unit all came down with this bug.

“It has been tracked down to a batch of food that we give to the babies by a saline drip and the three babies have all been treated with antibiotics.

“They have responded well and have all progressed well.

“All families have been kept informed about what is going on and the progress being made.

“Following an investigation by Public Health England the batch has been withdrawn and we will continue to work closely with them.”

A PHE spokeswoman said that investigations with the company have identified "an incident that might have caused the contamination”.

Professor Mike Catchpole, PHE's incident director, said: “This is a very unfortunate incident and PHE have been working closely with the MHRA to investigate how these babies could have become infected.

“Given that the bacteria is widely spread in the environment, we are continuing to investigate any other potential sources of infection.

“However all our investigations to date indicate that the likely source of the infection has been identified.

“We have acted quickly to investigate this issue alongside the MHRA and we have taken action to ensure that the affected batches and any remaining stock of this medicine is not being used in hospitals."

Health officials said this morning they cannot rule out that other babies might have been infected by the nutritional food product which has been "strongly linked" to the death of one baby and the illness of 14 others.

Dr Deborah Turbitt of PHE told Good Morning Britain the organisation is "fairly confident" that the problem has been contained, saying: "We think we know all of the babies who have been affected at the moment.

"It is just possible that one or two babies have been infected and have been treated who have not been notified to us. We are confident that we know where this product has gone and all of the hospitals have been notified."

Parenteral nutrition is supposed to deliver a variety of nutrients intravenously when a baby is unable to eat on its own.

The nutritional feed is sent out to different units that are looking after small, often vulnerable, babies and is made up on a daily basis for each newborn.

Dr Turbitt said: "We are fairly confident in talking with the company that manufactured the product that there was a single incident that happened on a single day to a limited number of products that went out to babies."