NECC News: Fungal Meningitis Outbreak Window May Be Closing per CDC

On Wednesday, the CDC stated that people who were injected with NECC’s contaminated epidural steroid have a greater chance of contracting fungal meningitis within 42 days of that shot. Since NECC recalled three lots of contaminated methylprednisolone acetate on September 25, 2012, the CDC estimated that thefungal meningitis outbreak may be coming to a halt.

This news may relieve those injected with epidural steroid injections at one of the clinics the FDA enumerated on its NECC customer and product list, but the nightmare for doctors, scientists, and meningitis patients will continue for an indeterminable period of time.

Regarding the latter, “It’s not clear” how long meningitis patients will have to endure antifungal medication that may cause a number of adverse side effects such as hallucinations, nausea, and, if not monitored, liver damage, according to Dr. Carol Kauffman, who was quoted by the Associated Press. Human cells and fungal cells are similar, so it’s difficult to attack one without harming the other, she said. Kauffman recommended taking voriconazole for a minimum of three months.

Doctors and scientists, on the other hand, are grappling with “uncharted medical territory,” per the AP.

Exserohilum rostratum, a black mold found in dirt and grasses, has been linked to the majority of fungal meningitis cases in this outbreak but had previously only caused 33 human infections, fungal disease specialist Arturo Casadevall, MD, told reporters.

“This is a bug that most of us don’t know much about,” he said.

As fungal meningitis cases tipped 300 and the CDC reported over 20 deaths, doctors and scientists learned that the fungus “grows quietly until enough accumulates for it to burrow a tiny hole, or abscess, into the lining of the spinal canal,” according to infectious disease specialist William Schaffner, MD, who’s served as consultant to the Tennessee Department of Health during the NECC fungal meningitis outbreak.

Much like human skin produces melanin, which helps it tan, Exserohilum produces melanin to fend off antifungal drugs, Casadevall said.

Recent autopsies have proven what doctors cautioned from the beginning of the outbreak: early treatment is critical. If you’ve been given an epidural steroid injection since May and find yourself suffering a severe headache, fever, nausea, light sensitivity, or a stiff neck, please seek immediate medical treatment.


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