Deadly meningitis outbreak linked to aggressive fungus

After 12 patients died from a meningitis outbreak in 2023, researchers discovered the cause was an epidural contaminated with the fungus Fusarium solani, according to findings published Feb. 8 in The New England Journal of Medicine

The outbreak included 24 confirmed meningitis cases connected to two medical clinics in Matamoros, Mexico, with many patients being Texas residents. The fungus aggressively attacked the base of their brains, researchers from the CDC and the Austin-based University of Texas System found. 

All had undergone cosmetic procedures, including breast implants or liposuction, and the epidural anesthesia introduced the fungus into their cerebrospinal fluid. 

"What we ended up seeing is, literally, this fungus eating through blood vessels and causing clotting as well," Luis Ostrosky, MD, chief of infectious diseases and epidemiology at UTHealth Houston and Memorial Hermann Health System and one of the paper's authors, told NBC News

The CDC theorized the fungus entered the epidural through contaminated morphine bought off the black market amid drug shortages, but this was not confirmed. 

After the procedures, patients experienced strokes, brain hemorrhages and inflammation.

Most were not evaluated until at least a month after meningitis symptoms appeared, and some emergency departments turned them away with a diagnosis of post-epidural headaches, according to NBC News.

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