New clue in Scotland anthrax infections

The hunt for the source of heroin tainted with anthrax has been widened following the tenth reported death from the infection in Scotland.

This tenth death from an anthrax infection was confirmed by Health protection Scotland, which revealed that the newest revealed victim died in the Glasgow area on Dec. 12.

The first death reported in the anthrax infection outbreak prior to this, however, was on Dec. 16 in Glasgow's Victoria Infirmary, giving researchers a new lead in their search for the source.

A total of 18 drug users in Scotland and one in Germany have been infect to date during the outbreak, which is believed to stem from smoking or injecting heroin that has been contaminated by anthrax spores, either through a tainted cutting agent or some other means.

There is no evidence, Health Protection Scotland has said, of person-to-person transmission of the bacterium.

“While public health investigations are continuing to attempt to identify the source of the contamination, no drug samples tested to date have shown anthrax contamination, although a number of other types of potentially harmful bacteria have been found,” Colin Ramsay, an agency epidemiologist, said in the statement. “It must therefore be assumed that all heroin in Scotland carries the risk of anthrax contamination and users are advised to cease taking heroin by any route.”

Ramsay also added that the risk of infection for the general public is very low. Approximately 55,000 people in Scotland are thought to use illicit drugs.