A Deadly Microbial Mystery Leads to a Spray Sold at Walmart

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday proves to be an aromatherapy gemstone spray sold by Walmart is linked to four mysterious bacterial infections in four different states. The infections left two dead, including a child.

On Friday, the CDC announced a respite from the mystery months: A bottle of aromatherapy room spray at the home of a Georgia patient who died contaminated with bacteria Burkholderia pseudomallei is a flowering plant species. The dangerous germ is commonly found in soil and water in tropical and subtropical climates, such as South Asia. If the bacteria is ingested or infected or enters a skin lesion, it can pose a life -threatening but difficult to diagnose infection called melioidosis.

When the CDC identified the contaminated spray, Walmart and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) announced the recall of the product, the Better Home and Garden Lavender and Chamomile Essential Oil Infused Aromatherapy Room Spray with Gemstones, manufactured in India. Walmart is offering customers a $ 20 gift card for the safe return of dangerous spray bottles.

On Tuesday, the CDC confirmed that the strain B. pseudomallei seen in the spray genetically matched the strain that affected the deceased Georgia patient and three other people.

There are usually a few cases of melioidosis in the U.S. each year, but it is often associated with recent travel to areas where the bacteria is naturally found. Four confusing cases this year – in Kansas, Minnesota, Texas, and Georgia – have no connection to travel. But CDC investigators quickly realized that the cases were connected in some way.

The first case was discovered in March by an adult in Kansas and ended in death. On June 30, the CDC issued a health alert after officials learned two more cases of melioidosis unrelated to travel: a Minnesota adult and a 4-years-old on Texas. Both people were reportedly rescued. In early August, the CDC released an update stating that a fourth case — the fatal case in Georgia — was identified in a postmortem analysis in late July. The CPSC recall says one of the two deaths, most likely the case in Georgia, was in a child.

‘The Proverbial Needle of the Haystack’

According to the CDC, whole-genome sequencing of bacteria previously performed by the agency found that B. pseudomallei the strains in each of the four cases are closely matched to each other and are the most closely matched strains found in Asia, particularly in South Asia. CDC investigators quickly began hunting for a common source, sampling soil, water, and various products from inside and around the homes of the four patients.

“Our hearts go out to the families affected by this situation,” said Inger Damon, director of the CDC’s Division of High-Consequence Pathogens and Pathology, which manages melioidosis. Alarmed by the confusing pool of cases, the CDC raced to find the source before others got sick. In a follow-up statement after the link was confirmed Tuesday, Damon noted how difficult it was — and how relieved he and his colleagues were — in identifying the source.

“If you think about the thousands of things that people have found around their homes, it’s amazing that we know the origin and confirmed it in the lab,” Damon said. “CDC scientists and our colleagues have found the proverbial needle in the haystack.”

According to the CPSC announcement, Walmart is recalling about 3,900 bottles of Better Homes & Gardens Essential Oil Infused Aromatherapy Room Spray with Gemstones, which come in six different scents. All odors were recalled. The 5-ounce pump-spray bottles are sold only at about 55 Walmart stores nationwide (here are a list of stores) and online at walmart.com from February 2021 to October 2021. They sell for about $ 4.

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