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  • A new report from the CDC found that two infants have recently been infected by the bacteria Cronobacter sakazakii.
  • C.sakazakii is a rare yet sometimes life-threatening illness that causes severe and often fatal meningitis and sepsis in young infants.
  • The bacteria has been found in infant formula and in breast pump components that haven’t been fully cleaned.

A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that two infants have been infected by Cronobacter sakazakii – a rare but sometimes life-threatening bacteria.

The first report occurred in September 2021 after an infant was formula fed. The CDC did extensive testing on the formula and found there was none within the powder and it is suspected that contamination occurred from the scooper or another utensil. After admission into the hospital and IV antibiotics, that child made a full recovery.

In February 2022 another infant contracted this bacteria and died 13 days after the onset of infection. It is believed that contaminated breastfeeding equipment was the likely culprit.

C.sakazakii is a rare yet sometimes life-threatening illness that causes “severe and often fatal meningitis and sepsis in young infants,” according to a statement by the CDC.

This bacteria tends to infect those that are very young and especially infants born prematurely.

And while this infection is treatable with antibiotics, death occurs in approximately 40% of those who develop meningitis because of underlying risk factors and complications.

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, this bacteria is naturally found in the environment and can exist on almost “any surface and is especially good at surviving in dry foods, like powdered infant formula, powdered milk, herbal teas, and starches.”

Despite these serious complications, it is estimated that only 18 cases of invasive C.sakazakii occur each year in the United States, most of which occur because of contamination of infant feeding products and equipment.

Although this bacteria can cause serious harm, Dr. Anna Morad, Director of the Newborn Nursery and Associate Professor of Academic General Pediatrics at the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt in Tennessee says, “it is important to recognize that this is not a common infection.”

“It does not cause illness for older children and healthy adults, but it can cause illness in young infants typically under 3 months of age or those with a weakened immune system,” Morad tells Healthline.

Because young infants are usually impacted by this bacteria, detection can sometimes be challenging.

Many symptoms begin with poor feeding, excessive crying, fever, and even low energy. In more severe cases, some infants may also develop seizures as well as this bacteria can infect the brain and the fluid within the spinal cord.

Although there are currently no reports on which formula or breastfeeding supply brand was specifically involved in these recent cases, this is the same bacteria that caused the shutdown of Abbott Nutrition’s infant formula plant in 2022.

Since C.sakazakii can survive on many services, it can enter factories or homes simply from one’s hands by not washing or even the soles of shoes.

It is believed that in factories C.sakazakii can get into formula powder if the powder touches a contaminated surface or contended ingredients were used to make the formula. In a home, inadequate sterilization of bottles, utensils, or other breast pump accessories, as well as inadequate hand washing, and contaminated water used to mix the formula can all be sources of infection.

Prevention is key to minimizing the risk of infection. The CDC recommends using a ready-to-feed formula for those under two months old, being born prematurely, or having a weakened immune system.

Extra steps can be taken at home to prevent infection including boiling water to at least 158°F, allowing it to cool, and then using that to mix with powdered formula.

“Because of the widespread presence of C.sakazakii in the environment, caregivers of infants should follow safe hygiene, preparation, and storage practices, and learn steps to protect infants from infection,” the CDC said in their Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Morad reminds parents that this bacteria “can be found on breast pump parts and bottles so it is still important to carefully clean these things as well.”

Hand washing with soap and water before preparing bottles, milk, or meals can also help reduce transmission. While there are many cleaning products on the market, using alcohol-based hand sanitizers with at least 60% alcohol can also be used as an alternative.

While this bacteria can cause serious illness in infants Morad says “parents should be careful with their formula preparation but not overly worried as this infection is a rare occurrence.”

With thorough hand washing and cleaning techniques, parents can safely avoid this bacteria, especially when children are young infants or if they have a weakened immune system.

Dr. Rajiv Bahl, is an emergency medicine physician, board member of the Florida College of Emergency Physicians, and health writer. You can find him at