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Another University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) transplant patient has died. 56 year old Dan Krieg is the fifth victim to die from a mold infection after receiving transplant kidney surgery at UPMC since 2014.

Kreig had received a donor kidney from his sister, and underwent transplant surgery in July 2015. He then returned to hospital in March where he was placed in what is called a negative pressure room in the Cardiothoracic Intensive Care Unit.

This is the same exact room where four other patients had died after being infected by mold.

However, hospital officials are downplaying mold as the cause of death.

They acknowledge that Krieg had a fungal infection, but they claim that he had died from complications due to pneumonia, and it was not mold that killed their patient. In a statement, UPMC had said;

“We are deeply saddened by the loss of Mr. Krieg,” spokeswoman Allison Hydzik said. “His death was not directly related to the fungal infection, but rather can be attributed to pneumonia. Our partners at the state and federal level have been notified, and we continue to work with them to better understand and learn from the course of Mr. Krieg’s illness. Our thoughts and sympathies go to his family, and our doctors and nurses who cared for him over the past several months.”

In May of this year, UPMC Presbyterian agreed to pay $1.35 million to the family of Tracy A. Fischer, 47, of Erie, who was one of four transplant patients who contracted mold infections at the hospital in 2014 or 2015. Like Krieg, Fisher who developed a deadly toxic mold infection at the hospital in September 2014 after she had heart transplant surgery in June. She died in October.

As part of he lawsuit, the family of Fischer cannot publicly comment on the details of the lawsuit or why UPMC agreed to pay them $1.35 million.

Pittsburgh attorney Brendan Lupetin who is now exploring a lawsuit on behalf of the Krieg family against UPMC contends that the mold led to his death. Lupetin said, “Sadly, Dan is yet another post-transplant immunosuppressed patient who contracted a necrotizing fungal infection during his admission to UPMC, having been confined for a time to a negative-pressure isolation room.”

Krieg’s nephew, Jesse Krieg, 32, had told the Tribune Review an autopsy requested Saturday has not been finalized.

“What I do know is that my uncle was diagnosed with a rhizopus mold infection that required surgery to have a left lobe of his lungs removed,” he said. “I don’t know how UPMC can give a definitive cause of death. There was a serious mold infection in that left lung.”

The deaths of the four transplant patients had sparked a federal investigation with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) investigating the source of the mold outbreak. A CDC report revealed that three of the four patients with deadly mold infections were in the same negative pressure room in the Cardiothoracic Intensive Care Unit at UPMC. The report stated:

“Room A was the only negative pressure isolation room in the CTICU and was adjacent to a door leading to a carpeted hallway and family room. Frequent use of this door by personnel and visitors might have disturbed the airflow, allowing dust and mold spores, if present, to enter the room. None of the patients had a clinical indication requiring negative-pressure isolation,” the report said.

The medical facts are that mold can easily cause pneumonia and for hospital officials to deny that it was the cause of his death is premature to say the least.

A report on the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website titled, “Mold Prevention Strategies and Possible Health Effects in the Aftermath of Hurricanes and Major Floods,” clearly states that  mold can cause various diseases, infections and illnesses such as asthma, an immune-mediated disease known as hypersensitivity pneumoniti, and longterm ingestion of aflatoxins (produced by Aspergillus species) which has been associated with hepatocellular cancer.

The report further states, “Numerous species of mold cause infection through respiratory exposure. In general, persons who are immunosuppressed are at increased risk for infection from mold (11). Immunosuppression can result from immunosuppressive medication, from medical conditions and diseases that cause immunosuppression, or from therapy for cancer that causes transient immunosuppression.

Prolonged exposure to high levels of mold (and some bacterial species) can produce an immune-mediated disease known as hypersensitivity pneumonitis (13). Clinically, hypersensitivity pneumonitis is known by the variety of exposures that can cause this disorder (e.g., farmer’s lung, woodworker’s lung, and malt worker’s lung).”

A recent news article in the BBC reported that more than one million people die from fungal (mold) infections around the world each year. Scientists had said that mold kills more people than malaria or breast cancer, but that it is not considered a priority.

According to the BBC, the warning comes as doctors in England say a new strain of fungi is causing outbreaks in hospitals.

Public Health England said “Candida auris appears to be unlike other pathogenic yeast species in its propensity for transmission between hospital patients” and warned it was resistant to the first choice anti-fungal drug.

Dr Berit Muller-Pebody, from Public Health England, said: “This species of Candidais emerging globally.

Prof Neil Gow, from the University of Aberdeen, said, “Yet there are no vaccines and there is a “pressing need” for new treatments.

Prof Gow further added, “Most people know about mild fungal infections, but nobody’s ever died from athlete’s foot. However, a million people die a year from fungal infections and we need to understand these different types of infection and how to deal with them. It’s an underappreciated problem and it’s a very serious challenge in the parts of the world least equipped to deal with it.”

So, here we have a known cause for approximately over one million deaths worldwide and kills more people than malaria and breast cancer, but it is not a priority and is underappreciated by the medical community, health activists and the media.

Maybe this is why UPMC hospital officials are downplaying mold as the cause of Dan Krieg’s death…

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