Steroid injections cause deadly outbreak of rare fungal meningitis

Tuesday, October 16, 2012 by: Jonathan Benson, staff writer
Tags: steroid injections, fungal meningitis, compounding pharmacies

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(NaturalNews) A rare form of fungal meningitis is sweeping the nation, and the alleged cause is a tainted batch of epidural steroid injections produced by a Massachusetts-based pharmacy company known as the New England Compounding Center (NECC). As of October 8, at least 105 people in nine states have been infected with the disease, known as aspergillus meningitis, and at least eight people have died as a result of infection.

According to NBC News and other sources, the fungus was found in unopened vials of methylprednisolone acetate, an anti-inflammatory corticosteroid drug commonly used to treat chronic back pain, ulcerative colitis, severe skin disorders, and various other conditions. The vials were reportedly shipped to at least 75 clinics in 23 states, and thousands of patients are said to have received injections in recent months from the tainted lots.

"Fungal meningitis in general is rare. But aspergillus meningitis -- the kind we're talking about here -- is super rare and very serious," says Dr. William Schaffner, president of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases and chairman of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee, about the outbreak. "There's no such thing as mild aspergillus meningitis."

Symptoms of fungal meningitis infection include headache, fever, dizziness, nausea and slurred speech, and are typically more subtle than both viral and bacterial meningitis, which are the far more common and contagious varieties. Fungal meningitis symptoms can also take weeks or even months to appear, as opposed to the more common forms of meningitis that manifest within days.

Federal health officials are urging patients who received an injection at one of the 75 facilities that administered the potentially tainted injections after July 1, 2012, and who have showed any potential symptoms in the weeks that followed, to contact their doctors immediately. The list of 75 facilities can be accessed here:

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as many as 13,000 people may have received injections from the allegedly tainted vials. But neither the CDC nor any other agency has yet begun to question how sealed vials of a steroid drug became infected with a rare form of fungal meningitis typically found in contaminated soil or fecal matter.

At this time, NECC has issued a formal recall of all products compounded and distributed from its Framingham, Massachusetts, facility. For more information, you can visit the company's website at:

Sources for this article include:

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