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Meningitis-linked fungus in tainted steroids, patients match

October 19, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
The fungus found in tainted steroids matches the one behind the deadly meningitis outbreak, federal officials said.

The match confirms the link between the outbreak and the maker of the steroids, New England Compounding Center of Framingham, Mass.

The victims in the outbreak had all received steroid shots made by the specialty pharmacy, mostly to treat back pain. The company recalled three lots of the steroid made since May. It later shut down operations and recalled all the medicines it makes.

The Food and Drug Administration is still testing the other two lots, plus other drugs that were supplied by the company.

Meantime, 13 healthcare providers have received the recalled medication. More than 250 fungal meningitis cases have been reported in 16 states. The death toll rose to 21 on Friday.

Tennessee health officials were the first to identify and report the outbreak. The state's chief medical officer said Thursday that the rate of new meningitis infections appears to be declining. However, Dr. David Reagan also said that he expects to see new infections in the state, and there likely will be more deaths.

Even with this positive indicator, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cautions that it is still too early to say whether the rate of new infections is decreasing nationally.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.