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DNA links Georgian’s death to germ-tainted aromatherapy spray

DNA testing
DNA testing(WRDW)
Published: Oct. 27, 2021 at 2:46 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - Health officials say they’ve confirmed a link between the death of a Georgia woman and a bacteria strain found in an aromatherapy spray and three other patients across the U.S.

In addition to the Georgian, one of the other patients died from the disease that’s more commonly found in South Asia, where the aromatherapy spray was made.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention used genetic testing to match the bacteria in a Better Homes & Gardens spray to the Georgia melioidosis patient’s home, as well as patients in Kansas, Minnesota and Texas.

The CDC announced Friday that a bottle of the “Lavender & Chamomile with Gemstones” aromatherapy spray had tested positive for Burkholderia pseudomallei, the bacteria that cause melioidosis.

But the final step in the investigation was to match the DNA fingerprint of the bacteria in the spray to the patients.

This allows CDC to confirm the spray or one of its ingredients caused the four melioidosis infections.

“When you think about the thousands of things people come in contact with around their homes, it’s remarkable we were able to identify the source and confirm it in the lab,” said Dr. Inger Damon, director of CDC’s Division of High-Consequence Pathogens and Pathology. “CDC scientists and our partners found the proverbial needle in the haystack.”

The CDC has contacted the manufacturer in India to determine whether ingredients from the implicated spray were used in any other products. Since Friday, an additional bottle of the spray has tested positive for the bacteria.

Anyone with Better Homes & Gardens aromatherapy spray purchased from Walmart online or in these Walmart stores between February and Oct. 21 should stop using it immediately and follow the steps listed on CDC’s website to safely return the product to Walmart.

Walmart is offering consumers a refund and a $20 gift card for its return.

The CDC emphasized that consumers should not pour the contents down the drain or throw the bottle in the trash. The bacteria do not normally live in soil and water in the United States. If the spray bottles end up in landfills, the bacteria could become established and cause future melioidosis cases.

For more information about the investigation, please visit the webpage on this cluster of illnesses and the Health Alert Network notice.

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