Scientists Call for Research Into Recent Bacterial Infections
Government scientists and outside experts on Thursday called for increased research into the causes of and treatments for a "deadly bacterial infection" that has been linked to the deaths of some women who took the drug Mifeprex, made by Danco Laboratories and known generically as mifepristone, the Wall Street Journal reports. Mifepristone when taken in combination with another drug, called misoprostol, causes a medical abortion (McKay, Wall Street Journal, 5/12).
Federal health officials in February announced plans for a May conference to discuss two types of bacterial infections that resulted in four deaths among women in California who took mifepristone and several outbreaks of diarrhea and colitis at hospitals and nursing homes. The bacteria, Clostridium sordelli and C. difficile, generally live in the soil and in human intestinal tracts and can cause bloodstream infections that result in a condition similar to toxic shock syndrome.
The deaths among the four California women taking mifepristone have been linked to C. sordelli (California Healthline, 2/13).
The conference on Thursday, sponsored by CDC, FDA and NIH, also examined a report of a woman who contracted an infection from C. sordelli after a miscarriage, as well as reports of similar infections in nine women who were pregnant. Scientists still have not identified the cause of the C. sordelli infections.
Ralph Miech, an associate professor emeritus at Brown University, suggested that mifepristone could inhibit the body's immune system, which would prevent it from fighting toxic shock syndrome.
Beverly Winikoff, president of the women's reproductive health group Gynuity, said, "There is no way to extrapolate [findings from animal studies to] what would happen in people."
James MacGregor, a professor at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, said use of mifepristone should be reduced or eliminated because the risk of death from its use is higher than the risk of death from a surgical abortion.
Cynthia Summers, director of marketing and public affairs for Danco, said, "What's very clearly pointed out here at this meeting is that this is very much a women's health issue, not just an abortion issue" (Wall Street Journal, 5/12).