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Fungal Meningitis Bulletin

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We seldom post items of immediacy, but here we interrupt our leisurely ways to write about the current disastrous meningitis outbreak caused by the injection of fungus-contaminated steroids and other drugs. As microbiologists, the question comes to mind at once: Who is the pathogen? The fungus implicated is Exserohilum rostratum (although a couple of cases were due to the more familiar Aspergillus fumigatus and to a Cladosporium). Like many good fungi, E. rostratum has a couple of synonyms: Setosphaeria rostrata and Helminthosporium rostratum. If you never heard of them, you’re in good company. Neither had an expert on fungal infections who I asked, nor had I despite occasional dealings with fungi. The reason is that there are lots of species of such molds, many of which cause exceedingly rare human diseases.

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