Meningitis Caused by Fungus-Infected Medical Marijuana

meningitis medical marijuana marijuana
Erika McConnell, the director of the Alcohol and Marijuana Control Office, had recommended that the Marijuana Control Board put the draft regulations out for public comment. (File image)

A 48-year-old woman contracted a meningitis infection through the use of medical marijuana.

An unnamed woman caught a potentially deadly case of meningitis in 2016 through the smoking of her favorite type of medical marijuana. The illness came from Cryptococcus, a fungus that infects people through inhaling polluted dust or consuming food that rodent feces has contaminated.

The woman was taken for medical attention at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in California, where she was treated by Dr. Bryan Shapiro. He stated that cannabis smokers in California should be careful and know where their marijuana is coming from. He said those with a compromised immune system should especially careful because contracting meningitis could be detrimental.

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Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in California

Illness resulted in aggressive and erratic behavior

The illness caused the woman to be very violent, she became so unpredictable that she was fired from her job. She also suffered from dizziness, fatigue and slight amnesia. The patient assaulted a nurse, which resulted in the psychiatric doctor being summoned.

‘We thought it might be catatonia [abnormal movement triggered by mental issues], and it took us some time to rule out a psychiatric illness,’

After not being to diagnose her, the doctor decided to take a sample of her brain fluid, which showed positive for Cryptococcus neoformans. This is a rare fungal disease found in persons in the late stages of HIV or those who have had transplants.

In checking the woman’s medical history it was found that she was normally very healthy, with the exception of hypertension and regular use of marijuana.

The woman was treated carefully for meningitis. If this was not done prudently there is a high possibility that she could have died, stated Dr. Shapiro. The doctor and his team investigated the dispensary in Bakersfield, where the woman purchased her marijuana and discovered small amounts of the fungus after DNA testing the nine samples.

‘That lent credibility to the idea that the cyrptococcus in the cannabis may have caused the woman’s systemic malfunction’

He also stated that ‘smoking might actually predispose someone to invasive fungal infection.’ In addition, fungus spores are commonly known to grow on marijuana. Studies have shown that more than 90 percent of marijuana plants carry evidence of mold, pesticides and other contaminants within the states.

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Bakersfield soil and surrounding area is a breeding ground for fungus

The Bakersfield and surrounding Central Valley area are viewed as a breeding ground for many fungi, especially the Coccidioides immitis, known to cause an infection named “valley fever.” The fever causes severe lung infection and the symptoms are very similar to those of the flu. The doctor highlighted that,

“The more you smoke, the greater the exposure [to the fungus and] the more likely it is that your body is unable to fight off the infection.”

The fungus is more likely to grow on outdoor marijuana plants said Dr. Shapiro. He strongly advised that buying indoor grown marijuana is better, as well as consuming edible products containing marijuana instead of inhaling the smoke.

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