Rare bacteria linked to deaths of 4 who took abortion pill

NATION DIGEST

Nation Digest

November 25, 2005|By KNIGHT RIDDER/TRIBUNE

LIVERMORE, Calif. -- The rare bacterium that caused the massive infection that killed 18-year-old Holly Patterson of Livermore in 2003 has been linked to all four California women who died after taking the RU-486 abortion pill.

The recent finding has led the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to plan a scientific meeting to discuss what many view as a medical mystery, FDA spokeswoman Julie Zawisza confirmed.

"We will further explore the issues and outstanding questions we don't have answers to right now," she said. "We don't know whether or not there's any link [to the RU-486]. We're trying to better understand this organism itself and its toxicity, what it does and under what conditions."

The bacterium determined to have caused deadly infection in two of the California cases, including Patterson's, was identified in July as Clostridium sordellii. The FDA said in a public health advisory this month that all four cases have been linked to the Clostridium sordellii bacterium.

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