What Does the Space Station Mir Have to do With Wisconsin?

The thing about infectious diseases is that they have a penchant for surprising us, popping out of nowhere, and behaving in ways that were not appreciated in earlier cases. This is the case of Zika, but also with a less known bacterial illness: Elizabethkingia, named for the famed CDC microbiologist Elizabeth O. King (who discovered it as well as the Kingella genus of bacteria).

Elizabethkingia is an interesting class of bacteria, one species of which was discovered on water that had condensed within the Mir space station. This bacterium, specifically the meningosepticum species, is usually linked to neonatal meningitis and infections in the immunocompromised. Clusters related to contaminated fluid solutions and similar products have been noticed. One of the challenges associated with this bacterium is the fact that it is highly resistant to many antibiotics, though fluoroquinolones are usually effective. 

However, an unusual cluster of infections in Wisconsin has been noticed

This cluster of nearly 50 people with bloodstream infections includes 18 deaths and spans several counties. Most of the patients are elderly and with underlying conditions. The source is, as yet, undetermined and it will be interested to how these infections emanated and spread over several counties. Important questions regarding the commonalities between the patients, their exposures, and their clinical trajectories will be important to determine in order to control this outbreak and prevent future occurrences.