Fungal meningitis victims hit by second infection

A second illness has struck several people recovering from a fungal meningitis outbreak caused by a contaminated steroid injection.

The new illness, an epidural abscess, is an infection located near the spine where the initial injection was administered. They are localized infections, but can cause meningitis, an inflammation of the protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord, according to the New York Times.

The abscesses appear to have formed while patients were taking powerful anti-fungal medications to reduce their first infections. Without treatment for the second infection, several victims have had to return to hospitals for surgery.

A fungus, a type of black mold called Exserohilum, causes the abscesses. Experts are uncertain as to how the new infection can develop even though patients were taking powerful drugs that, as test have shown, should have eliminated it.

Over the last few days, a third of the 53 patients treated for fungal meningitis at an Ann Arbor, Michigan, hospital have returned with the new problem. Michigan accounts for a quarter of the more than 400 original cases, more than any other state.

"We're hearing about it in Michigan and other locations as well," Dr. Tom M. Chiller, deputy chief of the mycotic diseases branch of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said, the New York Times reports. "We don't have a good handle on how many people are coming back. We are just learning about this and trying to assess how best to manage these patients. They're very complicated."