TWO babies have caught the MRSA superbug in hospital, it emerged last night.

Health chiefs at the Friarage Hospital, in Northallerton, North Yorkshire, said one baby is being treated in a side ward and remains healthy. The second is now well and has left the neonatal ward.

Doctors say the germ was found as a result of routine monitoring and neither baby has an active infection.

Dr Kolanu Prasad, associate medical director for the hospital, said: "It is extremely rare to have MRSA on the neonatal unit, but we are taking all the action necessary to tackle it.

"Because we monitor our babies very closely, we have been able to pick this problem up and deal with it."

Both babies were diagnosed in the past fortnight.

Doctors say methicillin resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is a strain of staphylococcus aureus bacterium that has become resistant to the drug methicillin and other commonly-used antibiotics.

The strain of MRSA diagnosed in the babies is also resistant to the antibiotics gentamicin and penicillin.

Infection control bosses said last night that measures were being taken to tackle the problem of MRSA - which is usually spread by unwashed hands - at the hospital.

Soap, cleansing alcohol and hand cream dispensers have been installed for use by all staff, patients and visitors.

Awareness days have been held at the hospital to highlight the importance of hand hygiene.

Doctors say it is normally difficult to determine whether patients have brought MRSA in with them, or they acquired the bug while in hospital.

However, in neonatal units, or where babies have been in the hospital since birth, officials say they must conclude MRSA was acquired in the unit.

The latest Government figures show that South Tees Hospitals NHS Trust, which includes the James Cook University Hospital, in Middlesbrough, and the Friarage, had 38 cases of MRSA between April and September last year.