Meningitis patients struck by 2nd illness

Nov. 3, 2012 at 12:22 PM
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FRAMINGHAM, Mass., Nov. 3 (UPI) -- People recovering from a meningitis outbreak caused by a contaminated steroid drug have been struck by a second illness, officials say.

The new problem, called an epidural abscess, was caused by the same steroid, methylprednisolone acetate, which was injected into patients to treat back or neck pain, The New York Times reported Friday.

Epidural abscesses are a localized infection affect the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord. They formed in patients who were taking powerful anti-fungal medicines to fight meningitis, putting them back in the hospital for more treatment, often with surgery.

"We're hearing about it in Michigan and other locations as well," said Dr. Tom M. Chiller, deputy chief of the mycotic diseases branch of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "We don't have a good handle on how many people are coming back."

More than 400 cases have been reported nationwide.

Doctors are trying to figure out how to best treat patients with epidural abscesses.

"We are just learning about this and trying to assess how best to manage these patients. They're very complicated," Chiller said.

The meningitis outbreak, first discovered in late September, was caused by steroids made by the New England Compounding Center in Framingham, Mass. Three contaminated lots of the drug -- more than 17,000 vials -- were shipped around the country, and about 14,000 people were injected with the drug.

Twenty-nine people have died, often from strokes caused by the infection.

An inspection of the compounding facility, which has since been shut down, uncovered extensive black mold contamination. The company, along with another Massachusetts company, Ameridose, which was also shut down, has recalled its products.

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