- Associated Press - Monday, April 4, 2011

MONTGOMERY, ALA. (AP) - Health investigators were trying to determine whether bacteria found in a laboratory of a company that supplied contaminated intravenous feeding bags matched organisms linked to an infection outbreak in six Alabama hospitals where nine people died after receiving the liquid nutrients, officials said Monday.

Officials checking for signs of contamination at pharmaceutical supplier Meds IV found Serratia marcescens on a faucet and a mixing area in the business, said Dr. Donald Williamson, director of the Alabama Department of Public Health. The same kind of bacteria was found in feeding bags made by Meds IV and given to patients in the hospitals, he said.

But such bacteria are common, Williamson said, and only test results expected Tuesday will show whether the organisms found in the Meds IV lab were linked to those found in the company’s product. The tests are “basically like fingerprints,” Williamson said.

Williamson said investigators might never know whether infections linked to the tainted feeding liquid caused the deaths and illnesses, but several families already have filed lawsuits blaming Meds IV for what happened to their loved ones.

Attorneys for relatives of Lunna Powell, who died at Princeton Baptist Medical Center on March 5, filed a wrongful death lawsuit blaming Meds IV and company officials for her death.

“By supplying the hospital with IV fluids tainted with deadly bacteria, Meds IV endangered the lives of patients, and in the case of Ms. Powell, they caused her death and they must be held accountable,” Leila Watson, a lawyer for the family, said in a statement.

Williamson said Serratia marcescens is common in the home, particularly around sinks, showers and toilets.