(excerpted from Maryn McKenna's excellent blog for Wired Magazine; 'Superbug')
There’s been an extraordinary outbreak going on over the past few months here in the United States: cases of fungal meningitis, a rare illness, primarily caused by Exserohilum rostratum, a plant pathogen that is equally rare as a cause of human infections. Since the beginning of October, 541 people have been made ill by the infection, in 19 states, and 36 have died. The cause has been traced to contamination in steroid injections for pain relief, made by a compounding pharmacy in Massachusetts which — according to federal investigative reports — was operating outside the lines of what compounding pharmacies are allowed to do. More than 14,000 people are believed to have received the shots.
I haven’t been covering the outbreak because I’ve been following other stories, and also because friends in the mainstream media, particularly the excellent health-science team at the Boston Globe, have been covering it well. (Here’s an archive from their paid site and one from their free site.) But last night I happened to get a close and moderately exclusive look at this complex story, so I thought I’d share.