Transplant unit to resume operations

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 25 February, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 25 February, 2009, 12:00am

Queen Mary Hospital's bone marrow transplant unit will reopen today to take new patients, after closing about two weeks ago because of a rare fungal infection that killed a six-year-old leukaemia patient and infected other patients.

A hospital spokeswoman said the decision to resume operations came after no new cases of the infection were detected in the past week, and the receipt of a shipment of the only drug capable of treating the infection, intestinal mucormycosis.

She said that before new patients were admitted, they would have to be tested for the fungus, and in-patients would have weekly tests.

The rare disease is caused by spores from a group of fungi called mucorales that exist everywhere. People with low immunity are most susceptible. The Hospital Authority said it was tracing the source of infection, which could be linked to non-sterilised prepacked food.

Queen Mary Hospital has stopped providing prepacked food to patients with weakened immunity, and a new Hospital Authority guideline prohibits susceptible patients from bringing food into hospitals.

Two of five patients suffering the infection in Queen Mary Hospital had been in critical condition since last week, the spokeswoman said.

The condition of one had worsened because of his terminal cancer, while the other was suffering from complications that developed after a bone marrow transplant.

The condition of two asymptomatic adult bone marrow transplant patients was stable, while a paediatric patient was recovering.

Queen Mary Hospital disclosed on February 11 that a six-year-old leukaemia patient had died from the infection, while a 57-year-old man with lymphoma who had died also had the infection.

It suspended its bone marrow transplants and activated a series of infection controls.