Home E-Weekly March 7, 2017

Fungus Attacked the Brains of Meningitis Outbreak Victims

Published: March 6, 2017

ON THE CASE CDC investigators used a new test to search for the DNA of the deadly fungus.

In gory detail, a physician from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention described the extensive damage to the brains and spinal columns of 17 of the victims of the 2012 fungal meningitis outbreak.

During his testimony on Friday during the second-degree murder trial of former New England Compounding Center president Barry J. Cadden, Sherif Zaki, MD, PhD, head of the CDC's infectious disease branch, described how the fungus flowed to the base of the victims' brains and "moved around and got into the vessels" to cause inflammation, stroke or thrombi.

In one patient, the fungus hung on the wall of a blood vessel, worked its way inside and then attacked. In other victims, the fungus caused inflammation at the base of the spine or around the spinal cord and caused necrosis of the brain. The fungus also obliterated blood vessels in other victims, said Dr. Zaki, a prosecution witness in the trial against Mr. Cadden, accused of racketeering and 25 counts of second degree murder for his role in the deadly 2012 meningitis outbreak. Prosecutors contend that the drugs produced by NECC were laden with the fungus that killed 76 patients and sickened 778 more.

Walter F. Roche, Jr.

Mr. Roche, a former reporter for the Baltimore Sun and Nashville Tennessean, is covering the NECC trial in Boston for Outpatient Surgery.

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