The neo-natal unit at the Royal under went a deep clean (Reuters)
The neo-natal unit at Belfast's Royal Jubilee Maternity Hospital underwent a deep clean (Reuters)

Sink taps have been confirmed as the source of an infection which killed three babies at a Belfast hospital, Northern Ireland's health minister has said.

Edwin Poots has told the Northern Ireland assembly that the Pseudomonasbacteria found in the taps at the Royal Jubilee Maternity Hospital (RJMH) were to blame for the killer infection. All the taps and connected pipeworks are to be removed.

The unit has been deep-cleaned after six babies were infected with the bug. Three died and a fourth died of a related infection at Londonderry's Altnagelvin hospital.

"I can report that investigations 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 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."

Taps were also the source of the Altnagelvin infection. The pseudomonas aeruginosa bacterium is usually found in soil and stagnant water. It does not normally cause illness to healthy people but poses a serious threat to people with weak immune systems.