An investigation has been launched at a Glasgow hospital after two babies died and another fell ill from a bloodstream infection.

NHS Glasgow and Clyde announced the probe following the deaths of two newborns in the neo-natal unit at the Princess Royal Maternity Hospital.

All three babies, who were born extremely prematurely, contracted an infection caused by Staphylococcus aureus bacteria, which can be passed by skin-to-skin contact.

NHSGGC said the bug was one of a number of contributing causes in both deaths. The third premature baby required treatment and is in a stable condition.

An incident management team (IMT) has been set up to investigate the outbreak, with all three cases said to be linked.

It comes after an outcry over the deaths of two people at the city’s Queen Elizabeth University Hospital following an infection linked to pigeon droppings.

A statement released by the Health Board said: “NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde closely monitors any blood stream infections in this vulnerable group of patients and as a consequence of this monitoring an incident management team was triggered on January 24.

“Sadly, two of the babies were extremely poorly due to their very early birth and have passed away.”

Dr Barbara Weinhardt, infection control doctor, said: “Our thoughts are with the families affected. Results have today confirmed that the three cases of Staphylococcus aureus are linked and our investigations continue into how they are linked.”

Staphylococcus aureus infections have in the past been linked to poor hand-washing. The NHS guidance recommends cleaning hands thoroughly, showering regularly and disposing of used tissues safely to avoid spreading the bacteria.

It is understood that the strain detected in all three cases is not the antibiotic-resistant MRSA type.

Dr Weinhardt added:“Staphylococcus aureus is a bacterium that is found on the skin and in the nasal passage of around one in four people and only causes infection when it enters the body.

“In cases where people are vulnerable to infection, it can cause serious infection. We have taken a number of control measures in the unit, including a deep clean, isolation and barrier nursing, safety briefs to all staff and infection control advice to all visitors.”

An IMT is launched into action if two or more cases of the same type of bacteria are found.

Dr Alan Mathers, Chief of Medicine, Women’s and Children’s Service, said that the investigation was triggered on 24 January and quickly established a link.

He said: “The IMT began their investigations into possible linkages between the three cases and sent samples for testing.

“Whilst these results were awaited, we spoke to the families affected, together with the parents on the unit and staff, to let them know of our investigations.

“The results that have come back today have confirmed links between the three cases.

“Our infection control team continues to work closely with clinical colleagues and domestic staff to manage the situation and take all necessary steps to maintain patient safety.”

Other agencies have now become involved, with Dr Lisa Ritchie, Nurse Consultant Infection Control at Health Protection Scotland, adding: “Health Protection Scotland is supporting NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde to ensure that all precautionary and control measures are taken in line with national guidance.”

The Crown Office has confirmed it is looking into the death of a 73-year-old woman at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow earlier this month, and also that of a 10-year-old boy in December from the Cryptococcus infection, which is said to be spread in pigeon waste.

Labour Shadow Health Secretary Monica Lennon said: “This is utterly heartbreaking and tragic. My thoughts go out to the families of these babies who will be absolutely devastated.

“Coming so soon after the deaths of patients at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, this will leave people questioning infection control standards at hospitals in Glasgow and across the country.

"The Health Secretary must urgently provide the reassurance the public needs.”

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said: “My thoughts are with the families affected at this time. NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde has spoken with these families as well as other families within the unit and, with the support of Health Protection Scotland (HPS), is taking the necessary steps to ensure patient safety.

“The health board continues to be supported by Health Protection Scotland, and its infection control team is working closely with clinical and domestic staff to manage the situation.”