Mass. steroid maker officially tied to outbreak
NEW YORK — The fungus found in tainted steroid shots matches the one behind the national meningitis outbreak that has killed 20 people, federal health officials said on Thursday.
The match confirms the link between the outbreak and the maker of the steroids, New England Compounding Center of Framingham, Mass. Officials previously said they found fungus in more than 50 unopened vials from the company but needed more tests to determine the kind of fungus.
The specialty pharmacy has been at the center of a federal and state investigation into more than 250 fungal meningitis cases. The death toll rose on Thursday to 20.
The victims in the outbreak had all received steroid shots made by the pharmacy, mostly to treat back pain. The company last month recalled three lots of the steroid made since May. It later shut down operations and recalled all the medicines it makes.
The fungus was confirmed in one steroid batch made in August, according to the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC has linked outbreak illnesses to all three lots; tests are continuing on the other two lots.
The initial recall involved about 17,700 single-dose vials of the steroid sent to clinics in 23 states, including Pennsylvania. As many as 14,000 people got shots from the three lots.
The company released a statement Thursday afternoon that said, in part; “We are eager to review these findings as part of our continued cooperation with the CDC and FDA to identify the cause of this contamination.”
The fungus in the vials — Exserohilum rostratum — is the same as that found in at least 45 people sickened with fungal meningitis.
“We were able to link the organism in these vials to the organism in the patients,” said the CDC's Mary Brandt, whose lab did the testing.
The FDA-CDC announcement did not say how many tested vials had that kind of fungus.
Exserohilum is common in dirt and grasses, but it rarely causes illness and has never before been identified as a cause of meningitis, CDC officials have said.
Meningitis is caused by the inflammation of protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord. Tainted spinal injections would directly put germs into that part of the body.
Officials say 254 of the cases are meningitis related to shots for back pain. Three others are infections in the joints, including a case that made New York the 16th state to report an illness in the outbreak.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Liriano strikes out 12, leads Pirates past Mets
- Pirates notebook: Substance rule a sticky subject
- Vietnam veterans recall their service — and those who didn’t make it home
- Montoya passes Power on final lap to win Indy 500
- Outdoor notices: May 25, 2015
- War memories remain strong for 94-year-old Manorville veteran
- Ex-Baldwin, Pitt star Pinkston not giving up on NFL dream
- Unquestionable courage & sacrifice
- Connellsville board set to tackle budget
- His memories of WWII are more than ‘Slightly Dangerous’
- Motorcyclist killed after striking pole in Penn Township