Health officials investigating the national fungal meningitis outbreak caused by tainted steroid injections had thought that the worst was over. The number of new cases was dwindling. Then came patients like Anna Adair.
An avid gardener and dog-breeder, Adair was rolled into a Michigan emergency room in a wheelchair Nov. 15. She had been bedridden for days, and that morning a bolt of pain in her lower back had caused her to tumble to the bathroom floor.
Doctors quickly reached a disturbing realization: An infection caused by black mold had infiltrated her spine, near where she had received an injection made by a Massachusetts pharmacy, and spread into the bone. It was not the meningitis that sickened hundreds of others in late summer and early fall, but part of a frightening second wave of fungal infections caused by contaminated drugs.
Dozens more people have now been diagnosed with excruciating abscesses or inflamed nerves in their backs that are proving formidable to cure.
In a health alert issued Thursday, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it is worried that some patients with spinal infections may not even be aware of their condition because the symptoms mimic the very back pain they originally sought to treat with steroids. The agency is now recommending that doctors consider performing MRI scans to screen all patients who have persistent back pain and received steroids from one of three contaminated batches. Previously, it advised scanning just those with new or worsening pain.
You have reached the limit of 5 free articles in a month
Stay informed with unlimited access to Boston’s trusted news source.
- High-quality journalism from the region’s largest newsroom
- Convenient access across all of your devices
- Today’s Headlines daily newsletter
- Subscriber-only access to exclusive offers, events, contests, eBooks, and more
- Less than 25¢ a week