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Dispute Arises Over UPMC Mold Claims

Last month, UPMC broke the news that it temporarily halted its transplant program following the discovery of mold and the sickening of several patients.

Tribune Review reporter Ben Schmitt wrote the original story on the incident, and says he has received incredible feedback from readers.  The question on everyone’s mind seems to be: are UPMC facilities not completely sterile?

So far, three patients have died, each with traces of a fungal infection.  UPMC claims that none of these deaths can be directly attributed to fungal infections.  A legal representative for one of the deceased transplant patients now says these autopsy reports prove otherwise.

UPMC retorted these claims, explaining that the fungal infection was only one of the causes of death, and that the patient was incredibly sick in the first place.  When a patient receives a transplant, they are given immunosuppressant drugs, resulting in a compromised immune system—one much more susceptible to airborne bacteria and viruses.

Because of the ubiquitous nature of mold, Schmitt explains that it is impossible to remove from the environment. 

“We could be on this desk where I am sitting right now, and because my immune system is intact, it is not affecting me, but if you do have a compromised immune system, it can,” he says.

UPMC has publically announced that the mold found behind walls and in and around toilets at their facilities was a different species than the one found in lungs and on skin of infected patients.

Still, the heath system has taken measures to ensure the safety of patients by doing cultures of the mold found, and changing air filters. 

UPMC assures the public that if they are healthy and in UPMC facilities, they should not be affected by mold.

Schmitt says that a final report from the CDC is expected to be produced in the coming weeks.

Until then, the UPMC transplant programs have restarted, and will continue to operate normally until a conclusion can be reached.

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