12 dead from deadly fungus that ‘eats through blood vessels’, here’s how they got it

Patients were infected with the fungus last year after undergoing common cosmetic procedures.

Deadly meningitis
© National Cancer Institute / UNSPLASH
Deadly meningitis

The idea of undergoing cosmetic procedures is certainly scary, but usually people don’t think they are putting their life at risk when they decide to get some work done. However, a deadly meningitis outbreak was caused last year after several patients were injected with contaminated needles.

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The cases were mostly spotted in the US and Mexico, with around 12 dying in the latter after procedures such as breast implants or butt lifts. Here’s everything you need to know about the deadly fungus and one woman’s experience with the infection.

Deadly meningitis

In 2023, an outbreak of deadly meningitis seemed to be spreading in the US and Mexico. It was discovered that the fungus had been transmitted to these patients through infected needles during various cosmetic surgeries.

Researchers looked into the effect of the fungus, and found that it aggressively attacked the base of a human’s brain. Dr Louis Ostrosky, of UTHealth Houston, gave NBC News this chilling description:

What we ended up seeing is, literally, this fungus eating through blood vessels and causing clotting as well.

Meningitis can lead to permanent damage to the brain or nerves, and even to sepsis - which can be deadly. People with the infection tend to suffer high temperatures, vomiting, headaches, rashes, stiff necks, a disliking to bright lights, and - sometimes - seizures.

Infections are usually caused by bacteria or viruses but can be, as they were in this case, brought on by fungi. According to a report published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the fungus in the Mexican cases was called fusarium solani.

The fungus

A group of 13 patients were studied once they realised they had meningitis. They started experiencing symptoms on average 39 days after their surgery, and were ‘young, otherwise healthy’ individuals.

The victims had travelled from parts of the US or other areas in Mexico to two clinics in Tamaulipas where they were given, as part of the procedure, an epidural anaesthesia. This is an injection used to numb the pain of the surgery, but it ended up being deadly for nine of the clients’ visitors - which amounts to 69% of the patients studied.

One mum’s experience

Alondra Lomas was one of the patients who flew to get surgery at a private clinic in Mexico. The Arizona woman was taken in by the low prices of treatments and, although she was nervous at first, she was convinced that the procedure would be worth it for a body she could feel comfortable in after two C-section births.

Lomas was infected with the deadly fungus, and said that her greatest fear was:

Death. And I only say that because I have not seen one lady leave. I have not seen no girl go home yet.

Indeed, one of the women who died following the infection was a patient Lomas had befriended. She had plastic surgery at the same clinic just two hours before Lomas. The young mother explained that she ended up seeking medical help several times in the weeks that followed her surgery as she dealt with headaches, back pain and eventually hallucinations:

The doctors told me that if I didn’t go in time, I could have died within 24 hours because this is a fatal infection.

Both the clinics, where it is thought the anesthesia drugs were contaminated, have been shut down.

Read more:

This woman woke up from surgery horrified after doctors perform unwanted procedures

Woman complained of consistent headaches, what doctors found in her brain was terrifying

Doctors found this inside man's lungs after he complained of a persistent cough

Sources used:

ABC News: Mom battles fungal meningitis after cosmetic surgery at Mexico clinic linked to deadly outbreak

The Sun: BOTCHED OPS Deadly fungus that ‘eats through blood vessels’ kills 12 and infects 24 after common cosmetic procedures

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