Anthrax-tainted heroin spreads in Britain

Feb. 6, 2010 at 3:17 PM
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LONDON, Feb. 6 (UPI) -- An anthrax contamination linked to heroin has killed nine people in Scotland and infected a man in England, authorities said.

The latest victim is a man now being treated in a London hospital, said Britain's Health Protection Agency, noting the case is the first recorded case in England of anthrax transmission through drugs.

"It must be assumed that all heroin in London carries the risk of anthrax contamination," HPA director Brian McCloskey told The Scotsman in a story published Saturday.

In all, 20 drug users -- 19 in Scotland and the one in England -- tested positive for anthrax, including the nine who died in Scotland since last year, the newspaper reported.

The contaminated heroin may be coming from a single source of the drug, authorities said.

Tests on contaminated heroin in Britain showed it likely was the same strain of anthrax that killed a heroin user in Germany in December, The Scotsman said. Tests on the Scottish strain had yet to be concluded.

Anthrax is a deadly bacterial infection found mostly in animals.

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