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Rare fungal infection possible cause of death cases in Hong Kong
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14:39, February 13, 2009

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Mucormycosis, a rare infection caused by the mucorales fungi and confirmed to have killed a six- year-old boy, was possibly the cause of a death case under investigation, Hong Kong health authorities said late Thursday.

A 48-year-old leukemia patient was admitted to Queen Mary Hospital on Nov. 11 and later discharged. He was admitted the United Christian Hospital (UCH) on Dec. 27, complaining of blood in his stool, and died there after suffering massive bleeding.

The case would be transferred to the Coroner's Court and an autopsy report was pending, a spokesperson for the UCH said late Thursday.

The announcement on the new suspected case came just one day after Queen Mary revealed a total of seven confirmed for suspected mucormycosis cases at the hospital.

One of the cases involved a six-year-old leukemia patient who died on Nov. 26, while "retrospective review ... showed another 57-year-old man who died from perforation of intestinal lymphoma also had intestinal mucormycosis in October 2008."

Queen Mary suspended admissions to its bone marrow transplant unit till it has enough supply of a special anti-fungal drug, the hospital said in a statement.

The fungal spores of mucorales can be found in environment, food and wooden materials, but it normally can be dealt with by the immune systems of healthy humans. Most of the patients who develop mucormycosis have very weak immune systems due to leukemia/ lymphoma and the chemotherapy, the statement said.

The aggressive, opportunistic infection was first described in 1885, the local English newspaper South China Morning Post reported.

Queen Mary Hospital is still investigating the source of infection, with prepackaged food such as bread or biscuits as one of the suspects.

A chain convenience store which has operation at the hospital issued a statement on Thursday saying that it has observed food safety protocols strictly.

Source: Xinhua

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