Inside Vanderbilt Lab Where Meningitis Outbreak Was Discovered - | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

Inside Vanderbilt Lab Where Meningitis Outbreak Was Discovered

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by Chris Conte

NASHVILLE, Tenn.- The microbiology lab at Vanderbilt Hospital is the kind of place that would make any high school biology drop-out cringe, filled with vials, test tubes and enough petri dishes to fill a small warehouse.

"I'm looking for specific structures that correlate to this organism," says lab technologist Tonya Snyder while looking into a microscope.

For those that might find this place overwhelming though you can be glad it is filled with people like Tonya Snyder.

"We look through the cultures, see what might be growing," she explains.

Over the last 19 years she's been looking through microscopes here, examining cultures from patients and helping doctors make diagnosis. But what she saw three weeks ago on a slide from a sickened patient though was the beginning of the meningitis outbreak.

"It's tragic," she said.

It's not that Tonya had never seen this type of aspergillus fumigatus fungus before, she'd just never seen it from someone's spinal fluid.

"I don't think anybody could've seen this coming," Tonya added.

When all of this is over with history will record this lab as being the place where fungal meningitis first was found.

"We don't like to see this is a specimen from that part (spinal cord) of the body," Dr. Carol Rauch says.

Dr. Rauch and her team are now assisting the CDC in their nationwide investigation. Everything they've found could eventually become evidence in a criminal case.

"To find that in cerebral spinal fluid is not only unusual, it's extremely concerning," she adds.

No one here cares much for the attention they're getting. All they were doing they'll tell you, was their job. 

"It is, it is sad. It's a tragedy."


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