Mystery Bacteria Strain Traced Back to Veterinary Laboratory At Konkuk University

John Kim, Dec. 9, 2015, 8:02 a.m.

A strain of bacteria that grew in a veterinary laboratory at Konkuk University in Seoul has been identified as the cause of mystery infections causing pneumonia-like symptoms in October. The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday announced the results of an investigation of the disease that has hit 55 people since mid-October.

"Based on the results of the lab tests, we believe that the disease resulted from the bacteria that may have proliferated in the feedstuffs kept in the labs," KCDC Director Yang Byung-guk told reporters.

The strain was identified as saccharopolyspora rectivirgula, which is commonly found in soil or in plants. KCDC tests showed that air from the fifth floor, which houses labs experimenting with feedstuffs, traveled through ducts to the fourth and seventh floors. 

The first infections were diagnosed on Oct. 19, when four students complained of breathing problems after visiting a cattle fair in Gyeonggi Province. They had all been experimenting at the school's fifth-floor labs. "Currently known respiratory problems from the bacteria are allergic responses," Yang said.

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