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NECC drugs linked to meningitis

Category: Infectious Diseases

The Washington Post reported that an outbreak of meningitis infections have been linked to drugs produced by the New England Compounding Center (NECC). Originally, the infections were tied to a steroid known as methylprednisolone acetate, which was taken via injection by nearly 14,000 people.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), as of Oct. 14, a total of 212 people had been diagnosed with fungal meningitis, and two people have peripheral joint infections. Tennessee has the highest number of infections with 53 people, followed by Michigan, which has 46 cases of infections.

Recently, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reported that there have been three new cases of fungal meningitis, which may be caused by two other NECC drugs. One of them is a steroid known as triamcinolone acetonide and the other is cardioplegic solution, which paralyzes the heart during open heart surgery.

The FDA noted that physicians should discontinue the use of all NECC products. It also recommended that physicians follow up with patients who have received an injection of an ophthalmic drug or a cardioplegic solution that was purchased from the NECC after May 21, 2012.

According to the CDC, a fungal meningitis infection occurs after a fungus spreads from the bloodstream to the spinal cord. Some of the risk factors of the disease include a weakened immune system, being of African American or Filipino heritage or being pregnant. . Also, living in certain geographic regions increases the chances of the lungs getting a fungal infection.

The Mayo Clinic reported that healthcare providers can diagnose meningitis with a lab test, in which the patient's blood is taken and put in a special dish to see if microorganisms, such as bacteria, will grow. You can also test for meningitis with an X-ray and computerized tomography, to find out if there is any swelling or inflammation in the head, chest or sinuses. A spinal tap is also effective in diagnosis. During this procedure a sample of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) is extracted from the spine. The CDC reported that people who have meningitis will have a low glucose level as well as an unusually high white blood cell count in their spinal fluid.

The Mayo Clinic also noted that besides fungal meningitis, there are also viral meningitis and bacterial meningitis. Bacterial meningitis is usually treated with antibiotics that are cortisone-like, whereas viral meningitis is cured on its own with plenty of rest and and fluids. According to the FDA, fungal meningitis is treated with anti-fungal medications that are usually taken intravenously.


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