Infectious disease researcher dies from rare bacteria

Posted on May 4, 2012

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SAN FRANCISCO (CBS NEWS/AP)–A researcher at an infectious diseases laboratory in

Isolated bacteria - Micrococcus luteus

San Francisco has died of a rare bacteria strain, California health officials said, raising fears the man’s friends and fellow researchers may too have been infected.

The 25-year-old man who worked at the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center, who has not been named, died over the weekend shortly after asking friends to take him to a hospital, the San Jose Mercury News reported Wednesday.

California Occupational Safety and Health Administration spokesman Peter Melton told the paper that the man had been handling a bacteria linked to bloodstream infections at the VA Hospital’s Northern California Institute for Research and Education.

Cal-OSHA was investigating the death and trying to determine if the lab followed safety protocol.

Harry Lampiris, chief of the VA Hospital’s infectious diseases division, said workers at the facility are expected to wear gloves, gowns and work behind a protective “safety cabinet,” or hood, while isolating the bacteria.

“His co-workers felt he was highly competent and that he was adequately supervised to do the level of work,” Lampiris said.

According to the Mercury News, a state laboratory confirmed the worker was infected with the rare Neisseria meningitidis bacterial strain he had been working with for months before his death.

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