Mexican police detained a medical doctor accused of using infected medicines that may have caused a mysterious meningitis outbreak in northern Durango state, after the disease killed at least 35 women in recent months.
Another 79 people have been hospitalized with signs of infection.
Police arrested the doctor who specializes in anesthesiology early Tuesday morning on charges of illegal practices including the re-use of medications at the private hospitals where he worked. The doctor’s full name was not disclosed.
Meningitis is typically associated with painful inflammation of the brain and spinal cord, often caused by a virus or in some cases bacteria or a fungal infection.
The affected patients in Durango were likely infected by fungal meningitis while having procedures in the same hospitals where the doctor worked, according to Durango state prosecutor Sonia Garza.
She told reporters at a news conference on Tuesday in the state capital that the first procedures associated with the infected patients took place last August and that many of them had been administered anesthesia for obstetric procedures.
“This specialist carried out procedures with no restraint,” said Garza, adding that he brought his own medication for patients, including unauthorized controlled drugs.
The outbreak has raised concern in both Mexico and from international bodies after the outbreak’s first death was confirmed last November.
Garza added that the detained doctor was the only physician who conducted procedures at the four hospitals where the infections have been observed. She said that he denied using his own medications at a hearing before prosecutors.
Reuters was not immediately able to request comment from the doctor, or locate his lawyer, but his son, contacted by Reuters, said his father is innocent.
“They accused my father without any evidence,” he said, declining to provide his name.
The meningitis outbreak is confined to private hospitals in the state capital, also known as Durango, according to Mexico’s health ministry.