Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Film in Pipeline 50 Years after Baby Tragedies

Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Film in Pipeline 50 Years after Baby Tragedies

Article excerpt

Byline: DAVE ROBSON @Daverobson_gaz

IT was a tragedy which rocked Teesside - and one whose legacy continues to shape medical thinking more than 50 years on.

In the winter of 1967, 15 babies died after a deadly strain of gastroenteritis swept through the children's wards of three Teesside hospitals.

Starting in West Lane Hospital before spreading to Stockton Children's Hospital and Middlesbrough General, the rare strain of E.coli bacteria proved stubbornly resistant to antibiotics.

As the grim death toll mounted, it made international headlines. It also proved crucial in formulating approaches to antibiotic resistant conditions.

Now a documentary about the history of antibiotic resistance is being made by German TV - and the Teesside story will feature heavily in it. The 90-minute film, Resistance Fighters, will take a close look at the Middlesbrough epidemic.

Documentary film-maker Michael Wech has even been to Teesside to research what happened.

And now he's appealing for anyone with memories of the event, or whose families were involved, to get in touch.

He told The Gazette: "Even though this was a local outbreak, it was a major turning point in the global fight against antibiotic resistance.

"While hospital doctors and nurses were fighting day and night for the babies' lives, they were helpless and shocked to find out that several of the antibiotics they administered did not work."

Steven Finch of Middlesbrough was 13 when his twin siblings Victoria Ann and Eileen Joan died around Christmas 1967.

Steven, who met the German filmmaker and shared his memories, said: "They were only a few weeks old - my parents were devastated.

"They could not understand that modern medicine was unable to help them."

Mr Wech said: "First-hand accounts of the events like Steven's are very important for our film.

"They help us sense the human scope of the tragedy alongside the analysis of historians and microbiologists. While doctors were fighting for the babies' were shocked several antibiotics "If we want people to understand the real threat of antibiotic resistance, we need story-telling by real people. …

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