The Dangers of Mycobacterium Abscessus Infections from Stem Cell Injections

Receiving stem cell injections for various medical conditions has become an increasingly popular treatment option in recent years. However, with this rise in popularity comes a number of risks and potential complications, as highlighted in a recent case study involving three patients who developed difficult-to-treat Mycobacterium abscessus infections after receiving embryonic stem cell injections in Mexico in 2022.

The report revealed that two men from Colorado and Arizona acquired these infections in Guadalajara and Baja California, Mexico, after receiving donor embryonic stem cell injections for joint pain. These patients developed infections related to psoriatic arthritis and osteoarthritis, which led to significant health complications. Additionally, a Colorado woman who received intrathecal donor embryonic stem cell injections to treat multiple sclerosis also contracted an M. abscessus infection.

Researchers found that the patients treated at different clinics represented a single clone of M. abscessus, suggesting a common infected source during the stem cell injections. This source could potentially be linked to the products, reagents, or equipment used during the procedures. The clinics where the patients received treatment were located more than 167 miles apart, indicating a broader issue with contamination in stem cell therapies.

M. abscessus is a bacterium found in water, soil, and dust that is intrinsically drug-resistant and rapidly growing. This makes it challenging to treat with conventional antibiotics, leading to persistent infections that are difficult to eradicate. The symptoms of M. abscessus infections can range from mild to severe, including fever, chills, and muscle aches, posing a significant threat to patient health.

The FDA has not approved any stem cell interventions for treating arthritis or joint injuries, yet clinics both in the U.S. and abroad continue to offer these unproven treatments to patients. This lack of regulation creates a breeding ground for vulnerable individuals seeking relief from chronic or incurable conditions, exposing them to the potential risks associated with unapproved stem cell therapies.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warns that individuals with open wounds or who undergo injections without proper skin disinfection are at increased risk of contracting M. abscessus infections. This highlights the importance of stringent infection control measures in medical settings to prevent the spread of drug-resistant bacteria and protect patient safety.

The cases of Mycobacterium abscessus infections following stem cell injections underscore the need for heightened awareness among providers and public health agencies regarding the risks associated with unapproved treatments. Moving forward, it is essential to prioritize patient safety, regulatory oversight, and evidence-based practices to ensure the integrity of stem cell therapies and prevent similar outbreaks of infections in the future.


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