Health officials in Swansea have confirmed the tragic death of two babies who died from E. coli infections.

The first infant, born prematurely, contracted the Extended Spectrum Beta Lactamase E. coli infection at the city's Singleton Hospital, while the second died outside the hospital. However, doctors believe that the two incidents could be linked and traces of cross-infection between the two are under investigation. In addition, health officials are also investigating three more E. coli cases, which are believed to be non-fatal.

The first victim, Hope Erin Evans, born on Oct. 31, was from Abderdale in South Wales and died on Nov. 4. A BBC report said that an inquest was opened into the case and then later adjourned.

"Tests have confirmed that in one of these cases the ESBL E. coli infection was contracted in the hospital. Sadly, this was a very premature baby who, despite the best efforts of staff, later died. The cause of death of this baby is currently being investigated by the coroner. Everyone involved with the unit and in the care of this baby deeply regret this tragic loss," said Dr. Bruce Ferguson, Medical Director, Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board. He added that the second case involved a mother who tested positive for the infection while but did not show infection-related symptoms and did not require treatment.

"We suspect she (the mother) also contracted ESBL E. coli within the hospital, but this can only be confirmed in test results which we expect later this week," he said.

"The two cases of ESBL E. coli transmissions currently under investigation are linked to three other confirmed cases of ESBL E. coli where the infection was contracted outside hospital. Everyone associated with the unit also regrets the tragic loss," said Ferguson.

Meanwhile, in an effort to emphasise the hospital's standards of hygiene, Ferguson added that the obstetric theatres had been deep cleaned and both the neonatal and labour wards were being cleaned on a more regular basis. In addition, as added precaution, entries to the neonatal unit were being "restricted to babies of 36 weeks or over gestation". The hospital, he added, would continue with routine full-term births.

According to the ABM Board, ESBL is an enzyme which can be produced by bacteria, thereby making them resistant to antibiotics. With a new class of ESBLs detected in E. coli bacteria, it is commonly found in the gastrointestinal tract and may cause urinary tract infections. It is resistant to commonly-used antibiotics such as penicillin and cephalosporin antibiotics.

The hospital has set up a helpline - 07747 615 627 - for concerned individuals and expectant mothers.