Fungal Meningitis Outbreak Grows Worse

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Exserohilum rostratum – a common mold – was found in vials of methylprednisolone acetate. Photo by: U.S. Government

The fungal meningitis outbreak has increased to 317 patients and caused 24 deaths in the United States so far, says the CDC – what are the experts doing to help those affected?

The number of cases, and information regarding this issue, continue to grow on a daily basis, but one important question remains: Were sloppy production processes at the NECC responsible for this outbreak, and the deaths that followed?

Fungal Meningitis Outbreak: What We Know

The CDC and the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have confirmed the presence of Exserohilum rostratum in an unopened vial of preservative-free methylprednisolone acetate (80mg/ml) from the New England Compounding Center (NECC).

This came from one of the three affected lots – the other two lots are currently being examined. We also now know that the contaminated steroid injections were delivered to outpatient facilities, not hospitals. As the number of cases grows, we are seeing more adverse reactions due to the tainted steroid injections. These medications have not only caused fungal meningitis, but also joint infections in affected patients.

Exserohilum rostratum is a common mold that can be found in soil and thrives in warm, humid climates. The most common infections that occur from contact are sinusitis and skin infections. However, in some cases, it can cause inflammation of the eyes, bones, and heart.

Fungus in Medicines: NECC Response

The New England Compounding Center has made available two lists of customers who received products that were shipped on or after May 21, 2012. These lists may not be entirely accurate or maybe incomplete, but it is the best information that is available at the moment. Both lists contain customer names and addresses, but the second list also lists specific products, the amount of the product, and the shipping date.

NECC could lose their license over this, and some authorities have said that this could end up being a criminal investigation. CBS News reports that during the first investigation of NECC, authorities found that the manufacturer didn’t properly test lab equipment, didn’t adequately sterilize medications, and they shipped medications before they were tested for contamination.

Medicine Manufacturing: Proper Conditions Are Key

In the business of making medicines, profits are important – but maintaining sterile conditions and properly testing products and equipment can save lives. In this case, unfortunately, a manufacturer may not have been as diligent as necessary – and that lack of proper procedure may cost more lives as the weeks draw on.

Resources:

CBS. Company to lose license over outbreak. (2012). Accessed October 25, 2012.

Food and Drug Administration. Update on Fungal Meningitis. (2012). Accessed October 25, 2012.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Multistate fungal meningitis outbreak investigation.  (2012). Accessed October 25, 2012.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Other Pathogenic Infections.  (2012). Accessed October 25, 2012

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