German heroin users death linked to Scottish outbreak

The death of a heroin user in Germany from anthrax infected heroin has been positively linked to the Scottish anthrax outbreak that has killed nine heroin users in that country.

Tests conducted by German scientists and the Health Protection Agency have shown that the strain of infection found in the German drug user was indistinguishable from the Scottish cases.

This new information has caused investigators to consider that the heroin in both countries has a common source. Fourteen of Scotland's reported infections had the same anthrax strain and the others are still under investigation.

All told, there have been 19 confirmed cases of anthrax infection in heroin users in Scotland, England and Germany. In addition to the nine Scottish deaths and one in Germany, England announced its first death from an anthrax infection this week and confirmed a second infection.

An investigation has been launched into the source of the two English infections, though no obvious connections to the Scottish heroin have been identified.

Contaminated heroin is still believed to be in circulation and drug users in Europe and Australia have been warned to be on their guard.

"Users should seek urgent medical attention in the event of symptoms such as redness or swelling at or near an injection site or other symptoms of general illness such a high temperature, chills or a severe headache, as early antibiotic treatment can be lifesaving," Dr. Colin Ramsay, head of Scotland's national outbreak control team, told