A herpes infection suspected to have come from a single surgeon may have caused the tragic deaths of two new mothers.
Kimberley Sampson, 29, and Samantha Mulcahy, 32, both died of herpes in 2018 after cesarean sections performed by the same doctor. While the coroner advised the relatives of the deceased women that there would be no inquests into their similarly unusual deaths, a BBC investigation discovered that there may be a link.
Sampson's case started when her labor stalled on May 3, 2018. Despite being in excruciating agony and unable to walk, she was released from the hospital two days after her baby's birth with her newborn boy, only to swiftly deteriorate and be taken back to the hospital days later.
Doctors tried to figure out what was wrong with Sampson before finally diagnosing her with a severe herpes infection. According to the BBC, she died on May 22.
Mulcahy went into labor four weeks early and had her baby via cesarean section in July 2018 at the same hospital -- the East Kent Hospitals Trust -- as Sampson. Her condition deteriorated quickly, and doctors fought to stabilize her. They misdiagnosed her with bacterial sepsis, and she died a few days later. She died of an overwhelming herpes simplex infection, according to the postmortem.
Both of their children are healthy, but paper trails obtained by the BBC suggest that their mothers died as a result of "surgical contamination," which could have been caused by the midwife and surgeon who performed both women's C-sections. According to e-mails from a private lab brought in to investigate the deaths, the virus parts found in both women were similar.
Both women had a primary infection, which meant they had never been infected before or had no natural immunity to the virus.
The women's families received letters from the coroner, Katrina Hepburn, almost a year after their deaths, stating that there would be no inquest and that there was "no connection" between the two deaths.
However, email exchanges uncovered by the BBC between workers at Public Health England (PHE), the East Kent Hospitals Trust, several NHS organizations, and a private lab called Micropathology revealed that the same two clinicians - a midwife and a Caesarean surgeon - were involved in both babies' deliveries.
The BBC said those in the email chain were concerned about the potential connection.
U.K. sexual health consultant Peter Greenhouse told the BBC the surgeon may have had a herpetic whitlow, or herpes finger infection, which "directly seeded herpes into the abdomen of the women."
The surgeon verbally stated he had no history of herpes or hand lesions, according to the East Kent Hospitals Trust, though he was not tested for the virus at the time of the operations.