A killer infection which claimed the lives of three babies in a Belfast hospital has been traced to taps in the neo-natal unit, Northern Ireland's health minister has said.
All the taps and connected pipework in the room at the Royal Jubilee Maternity Hospital (RJMH) are to be removed as experts try to eradicate all traces of the pseudomonas bacteria, Edwin Poots told the Stormont Assembly.
One baby, who continues to be treated, was later confirmed as suffering from the pseudomonas infection at the Belfast hospital, bringing the total number of cases to seven.
It was also confirmed there are no reports of any new babies having the pseudomonas bacteria on their skin as a result of the outbreak.
"I can report that investigations so far have shown that pseudomonas bacteria have been found in a number of taps in the intensive care area of the neo-natal unit in the RJMH," said Mr Poots.
"The (Belfast) Trust Health Estates team are in the process of removing and replacing all taps and related pipework in the affected area. There is no evidence of pseudomonas in the water system. This indicates that it is likely to be a localised problem."
An outbreak of a different strain of pseudomonas in Londonderry's Altnagelvin hospital last month, which claimed the life of one baby, was also linked to the water system in its neo-natal facilities.
Mr Poots said special ultraviolet technology may be installed in the region's hospitals in a bid to prevent further outbreaks. He also revealed the incident in Altnagelvin prompted health chiefs to write to all trusts in Northern Ireland reminding them of the infection risks posed by water systems.
Pseudomonas can cause infections in the chest, blood and urinary tract. The neo-natal unit at the Royal Jubilee, which was emptied in the wake of the outbreak, has undergone a deep clean.
Of three other babies believed to have contracted the infection at the Royal Jubilee, two have recovered and continue to receive neonatal care while the third initially recovered but subsequently died of unrelated causes.