Fungal Meningitis outbreak: Aggressive brainstem attack claims 12 lives, new research reveals unique fungus behavior

Visual Representation
Visual Representation

United States: The United States has registered as many as 24 patients of fungal meningitis; out of the total, twelve (12) succumbed to the infection, according to the health authorities. Reportedly, the majority of the infected cases visited two medical clinics in Matamoros, Mexico.

New research published in The New England Journal of Medicine on Wednesday underlined that the fungus causing the infection aggressively attacked the base of the patients’ brains, according to the reports by NBC News.

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The health officials have mentioned that the patients had undergone cosmetic procedures which required epidural anesthesia. According to a later discovery, the fungus called Fusarium solani is found in the epidural.

According to the reports by NBC News, the electronic health records were monitored and surveyed by researchers from the University of Texas System jointly with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Of all 13 patients, imaging and pathology reports were also scrutinized. They discovered that the fungus really liked attaching to blood vessels, especially in the brainstem, where there are a lot of them.

Comments by the health experts!

One of the authors of the research, who also served as the division director of infectious diseases at UTHealth Houston – Dr. Luis Ostrosky, stated, “What we ended up seeing is. Literally, this fungus eats through blood vessels and causes clotting as well.”

It is to be noted that the health experts emphasized that such fungus behavior in the human body resulted in strokes, brain hemorrhages, and increased pressure within the brain.

Additionally, the senior public health adviser of health and medical affairs at the American Public Health Association – Dr Celeste Philip, who did not contribute to the research, mentioned, “Seeing how the brain stem was impacted in very specific ways, which were unexpected and unusual, is an important finding and potentially could help alert clinicians to future cases.”

Visual Representation for rashes caused by Fungal Meningitis

Both experts were accompanied by an infectious disease expert and epidemic intelligence officer at the CDC – Dr Katrina Byrd. She highlighted that after getting infected with the fungus, it is really difficult to get an early treatment.

“If we can catch the infection early, the length of the treatment is shorter, and the effect of the infection on the body is less severe,” she was quoted saying, according to NBC News.

Health status of the remaining six patients!

During the outbreak, six of the patients who survived were given an experimental antifungal drug. Lab tests revealed that the fungal strain was resistant to existing drugs. The CDC’s epidemiologist, Dallas Smith, who led the agency’s efforts in the outbreak, mentioned this information. Unfortunately, a seventh patient who received the drug did not survive.

Smith highlighted the challenge of cultivating the fungus from spinal fluid in the lab. The successful sample came from the brain of a deceased patient, according to the reports by NBC News.

Both survivors and some who passed away received additional treatments such as steroids for inflammation, spinal fluid diversion shunts, and other advanced measures to address the impact on the brainstem.

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