Detecting Fungal Meningitis
Written by Faith Anderson on October 15, 2012
Fungal Meningitis Caused by Tainted Steroid Injections
According to estimates by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 14,000 people received shots of methylprednisolone acetate that could have been contaminated with the rare fungus exserohilum, and the disease has already affected 205 people across the country, leaving 15 dead. As of October 14, cases and deaths from fungal meningitis have been reported in 14 states, including Florida, Ohio, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, Virginia, Texas and Tennessee. In Tennessee alone, there have been 53 cases of meningitis and six deaths – the highest rates among all the affected states. In addition, there are a number of people all over the United States who are currently receiving treatment for symptoms of meningitis and awaiting test results to determine whether or not they have the disease.
Life-Threatening Meningitis Symptoms
In addition to the delayed onset of symptoms, federal health officials warn that some cases of fungal meningitis may be missed because the tests used to diagnose the disease aren’t always accurate. Fungal meningitis is a life-threatening disease caused by a mold that somehow made its way into vials of the NECC’s methylprednisolone acetate steroid injection. The disease is indicated by inflammation of the spinal cord and the protective membranes around the brain, resulting in an infection of the fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord. Cases of fungal meningitis linked to the tainted epidural shot may be associated with symptoms like headache, fever, stiff neck, vomiting, nausea, mental confusion and increased sensitivity to light. As the disease progresses, the victim may exhibit more severe symptoms, including seizures, coma and death.
NECC Under Investigation for Questionable Manufacturing and Distribution Practices
While the initial steroid injection recall was associated with only three lots of methylprednisolone acetate, NECC has been asked to shut down all of its operations over concerns about the quality and safety of its manufacturing process, as has another Massachusetts compounding pharmacy called Ameridose. The NECC and Ameridose have the same principal owners, although no drugs manufactured by the latter have been implicated in the meningitis outbreak. As details of the national crisis were brought to light, serious concerns were voiced about the scope of NECC’s operations and drug distribution. Compounding pharmacies like NECC are designed to provide local medical centers with customized drugs for patients with special needs, although state officials have accused the company of operating nation-wide as a large-scale drug firm. While large drug companies require FDA approval to develop and sell drugs, compounding pharmacies are subjected to few regulations and have little FDA oversight, a serious issue that allowed NECC to create and distribute potentially dangerous drugs cheaper and faster than other drug firms.