Press Releases

Biologic Agents Identified by Mark Horton, M.D

County Executive Office - Press Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 11, 2000

CONTACT:Mark B. Horton, MD, MSPH
714.834. 3122
Hildy Meyers, MD, MPH
714.834.8024

MICHAEL SCHUMACHER, Ph.D.
DIRECTOR

MARK B. HORTON, MD, MSPH
DEPUTY AGENCY DIRECTOR/HEALTH OFFICER

MAILING ADDRESS:
515 N. SYCAMORE STREET, SUITE 610
SANTA ANA, CA 92705

TELE.: 714.834.3155
FAX: 714.834.5506

BIOLOGIC AGENTS IDENTIFIED BY MARK HARTON, M.D.

Today Mark Horton, M.D., Orange County's Health Officer, reported that two bacteria were identified among the biological materials removed from the Biofem facility in conjunction with the investigation surrounding Dr. Larry Ford.

The organisms, which were found in extremely poor condition, were identified as Clostridium tetani and Clostridum difficile. C. tetani is ubiquitous in the environment and is the bacterium that can cause tetanus in unvaccinated individuals, or those who were vaccinated in the past but have not maintained their immunity through receipt of the recommended booster doses of vaccine. Tetanus can occur when an open wound, even a medically insignificant one, is contaminated with soil or animal feces. C. difficile can be found in the intestines of 3-8% of healthy adults and it may cause diarrhea in individuals whose intestinal flora has been altered as a result of receiving antibiotics, usually in elderly persons being treated in a hospital.

There is no evidence to suggest that these materials were being used to prepare a biological weapon, and neither of these bacteria are on the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) list of possible bioterrorism agents. As we have stated in the past, there is absolutely no indication of any threat to public health.

No other bacterial agents have been identified. As a result of these conclusions, the public health and laboratory investigation into the biologic materials has been terminated.