A bacterium discovered this week in Prince George’s Hospital Center’s neonatal intensive care unit led authorities to close the unit and move patients to Children’s National Medical System in Washington, D.C, the hospital announced.

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The sometimes-fatal bacterium, named pseudomonas, was unearthed in a patient area outside of the unit during continuous water sampling and testing.

Following the discovery, hospital officials rolled out a remediation plan that includes disinfecting and treating plumbing infrastructure, additional water filtration, implementing a long-term water monitoring plan and initiating hospital-wide water treatment into branch water lines.

An investigation is ongoing at the hospital with public health authorities, infectious disease experts and epidemiologists.  

Hospital patients, especially those using breathing machines, recovering from surgery wounds and burns and using devices like catheters, are most at risk for life-threatening infections, according to the Centers for Disease Control.  Contaminated equipment that isn’t cleaned properly and healthcare workers’ hands are known to spread pseudomonas.

Colorized depiction of Pseudomonas aeruginosa bacteria. (www.cdc.gov)

“We are taking a very methodical and collaborative approach to our investigation and remediation and will follow the science where it leads us,” Sherry Perkins, Dimensions Healthcare System’s executive vice president and chief operating officer, said in a statement.

According to Baltimore ABC affiliate WMAR, hospital authorities originally found bacterium in water pipes earlier this month after two newborns died in the unit. While an infectious disease expert looks into whether pseudomonas caused those deaths, the hospital is making plans to transfer high-risk pregnancies to a partner hospital for delivery.