Two premature babies have died after an outbreak of a rare infection in the neonatal intensive care unit at the University Hospital of North Staffordshire.

Both babies were born before 28 weeks and died in July. Five other children were isolated after it was found they were carrying the Serratia marcescens infection.

Serratia marcescens causes urinary tract, wound and bloodstream infections, which tend to be associated with critical care units.

Chief executive of the trust Julia Bridgewater said: “The trust identified an infection in our neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) in July, Serratia marcescens, that can affect babies born extremely premature.

“Sadly two babies who died, both born before 28 weeks, had this uncommon infection, and post-mortems confirmed Serratia marcescens as the cause of death. The families of the two babies were informed at the time of this infection.

“The trust would like to offer its sincere condolences to those families who have lost a baby.”

Jeorge Orendi, consultant microbiologist, said: “As a precaution the trust temporarily closed NICU to new admissions and the five other babies who were carrying the organism, but were not unwell, were isolated.

“One of those five babies continues to be treated on the unit for other conditions and will remain here at University Hospital in isolation until they are well enough to go home.”