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article imageScientist's death from bubonic plague confirmed

By Kevin Jess     Mar 1, 2011 in Health
Chicago - In 2009 a Chicago university scientist died from what some thought might be from being infected with Bubonic Plague. He was studying a federally approved strain of the bacteria at the time and now the results are in.
Malcolm Casadaban, 60, died Sept. 13 after he was exposed to a weakened form of the plague causing bacteria, reported Digital Journal in 2009.
Test results have confirmed that Mr. Casadaban died while conducting vaccine research using a weakened strain of plague bacterium due to an underlying medical condition says a press release.
The plague bacteria Casadaban was working with were a deliberately weakened strain, and aren't even on the US list of potential bioweapons. This particular strain were found unable to even kill mice reported NewScientist.
When Casadaban first went to his doctor with classic flu-like symptoms, which are typical of nearly every early infection, he had sought no further treatment. Three days later when his condition worsened he went back, and was dead 13 hours after that. He hadn't mentioned the bacteria he had been working with at the first visit or the second visit. Bubonic plague is curable with the proper antibiotics. Testing for the plague did not begin until five days after he died when a doctor learned where the patient had worked.
According to Bloomberg, an autopsy performed on Mr. Casadaban found he had a medical condition that affects approximately 1 in 400 people. The condition, called hemochromatosis, causes an excessive buildup of iron in the body. This particular strain of bacteria, Yersinia pestis requires iron in order to survive.
University of Chicago infectious disease specialist Ken Alexander told Bloomberg, “It’s like having a lion, where we took out all its teeth and all its claws. But in the case of Dr. Casadaban, the lion didn’t even need to have teeth. There was so much iron that it was freely available and easy to get.”
The Casadaban case demonstrates that regardless of the degree to which plague material is altered, there will be individuals who are susceptible to infection, Alexander said.
Over 2,000 people are infected with Bubonic Plague annually around the world with approximately 90 percent of those infected surviving the disease.
Mr. Alexander told Bloomberg, "I’m sure that if Dr. Casadaban had had one comment for us as we sat around that table it was: 'Listen guys, I’m trying to teach you something, and you better damn well learn it. And I think we did.”
More about Bubonic plague, Malcolm casadaban, Infectious diseases, University of Chicago
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