By NewsDesk  @bactiman63

The Norwegian Institute of Public Health (FHI) has been notified of an ongoing outbreak with the bacterium Serratia marcescens which has been detected in several of the country’s hospitals. A total of 33 cases have now been reported from three of the country’s four health regions.

Serratia marcescens

FHI is now contributing to the outbreak work by coordinating a group with representatives from all health regions, says senior physician Arne Taxt at the Institute of Public Health. 

In addition, the Norwegian Food Safety Authority and the Norwegian Medicines Agency are involved in the investigative work. The purpose is to get a broad overview of the situation and stop the outbreak. It is currently unclear what the source of infection is, and where the infection may have spread.  

The working group works systematically to map the extent of the outbreak, find routes of infection, and to investigate whether there may be a common source of infection, says Taxt. 

The outbreak was discovered in October 2022 when hospitals in Helse Midt-Norge reacted to an increase in the number of patients in the region who were diagnosed with Serratia marcescens. Seven of these turned out to be identical bacterial strains with the same genetic profile. Helse Midt-Norge then also examined earlier patient samples, and has identified a total of nine cases with the same bacterial strain from 2022 and one from 2021. Last week, three health organizations in Helse Sør-East also announced the discovery of this bacterial strain in a total of seven patient samples from 2022.  Three deaths have been reported where the infection may have been a contributing factor. 

As of 22 November, FHI has identified 33 cases in the three health regions Health Central Norway, Health West and Health South-East.

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So far, no common cause of infection has been identified in the patients, and further investigations are ongoing, he concludes. 

Serratia marcescens is a commonly occurring bacterium that, among other things, thrives in water and moist environments, as well as in hospital environments. It rarely causes disease in healthy people, but can cause serious disease in patients with weakened immune systems. Infections with Serratia marcescens can be treated with antibiotics.