Thanks to FluTrackers for tweeting about this report in Medical Daily: US Officials Investigate Mysterious Death of 25-Year-Old Scientist, Hours after Handling Rare Bacteria. Excerpt:
Health officials are investigating how 25-year-old researcher died Saturday, hours after handling an infectious meningitis bacteria in a California laboratory.
The unidentified San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center researcher died about 17 hours after first reporting symptoms after leaving work on Friday, according to the San Jose Mercury News.
"He left the lab around 5 p.m.," Dr. Harry Lampiris, chief of the VA hospital's infectious diseases division told the paper. "He had no symptoms at all."
However, two hours later the man reportedly told his girlfriend that he had a headache, fever and chills, and it wasn’t until Saturday morning that his symptoms had worsened and he developed a body rash.
He had asked his friends to take him to a hospital, but he fell unconscious on the ride there and arrived with no pulse. The researcher was later pronounced dead that morning.
“People in the lab didn't think there was any evidence that he was either sloppy or inadequately trained,” Dr. Lampiris told MSNBC.
Colleagues of the dead researcher, who majored in biology and joined the laboratory in October 2011, felt like he was “highly competent” and was “adequately supervised” when handling the rare and infectious Neisseria meningitidis bacterium, a germ that he had been studying at the laboratory for weeks and months before his death.
Officials confirmed that the rare strain that the researcher and his follow colleagues had been studying, Serogroup B, was also the same one later found in his body.
The researcher is believed to have suffered from either septicemia or meningitis, two resulting conditions that can be caused by the germ.
Currently investigators believe that the man was more likely to have suffered septicemia, a bloodstream inflammation that results in bleeding to the skin and organs.
The other ailment could have been meningitis, a condition that inflames the thin membrane that surrounds the brain and spinal cord, and can lead to hearing loss, brain damage and in some cases death, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The man along with his colleagues had been researching the bacteria in hopes of finding a vaccine for the Serotype B strain, one of five major strains that cause meningitis and septicemia and currently has no vaccine.