An inquest has been announced into the deaths of two new mothers who died from herpes weeks apart in 2018.
Kim Sampson and Samantha Mulcahy died shortly after giving birth by Caesarean section at hospitals under the East Kent NHS Trust.
They had been operated on by the same surgeon, who a BBC investigation claimed may have been the source of the herpes infection.
Coroner Katrina Hepburn had previously said there would not be an inquest for either of the deaths, adding that there were similarities but “no connection” between them.
Last month, the Royal College of Obstetricians called for a probe into the deaths, adding that “surgical infection appears to be a significant possibility”.
Herpes infections are extremely common and usually mild, so it is unusual for the virus to cause deaths in healthy people.
Doctors attempted to diagnose the cause of her infection but were unable to identify the exact cause, treating her as if she was suffering from sepsis.
Afterwards, she was transferred to Kings College Hospital in London and diagnosed with a catastrophic herpes infection. Ms Sampson died on 22 May 2018.
Mrs Mulcahy, 32, died six weeks later from the same virus at the William Harvey Hospital in Ashford. The cause of her illness was not found until after her death.
In 2019, the coroner informed both of their families that they died of natural causes, and told them she believed there was no connection between their deaths.
However, the BBC said its investigation has found documents that show the virus both women became infected with was genetically identical.
In a new letter, as reported by the BBC, the coroner said: “I am now of the view that there is reason to suspect that the infection may have arisen as a consequence of a necessary medical procedure, namely the Caesarean section, and in those circumstances, I have a statutory duty to investigate further.”
Dr Rebecca Martin, chief medical officer for East Kent Hospitals, said: “Our deepest sympathies are with the families and friends of Kimberley and Samantha.
“We will do everything possible to support these inquests and our thoughts are with Kimberley and Samantha’s families at this time.”
Kim’s mother Yvette Sampson told the BBC: “We’ve wanted this since Kim died in 2018 – it’s been a long time coming. We hope we are finally going to get answers to the questions we’ve always had – both for ourselves and for Kim’s children.”
The inquest will be formally opened on 4 January.