A young researcher at the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center has been killed by the rare strain of bacteria that he was researching. Richard Din, 25, died in the hospital where he worked just 17 hours after coming down with a bloodstream infection caused by the bacterium Neisseria meningitidis, reports the San Francisco Chronicle. His friends and colleagues are receiving preventive antibiotics, as are dozens of health workers amid concerns of a safety breakdown.
Din had been handling the bacterium for months before his death, and colleagues describe him as a smart, fastidious researcher who paid attention to safety precautions. Din was working to develop a vaccine for the bug, which kills some 75 people in the US each year, and is the only one of five major strains causing meningitis and septicemia for which no vaccine exists, reports the San Jose Mercury News. "We're not certain how this death happened, but hopefully the investigation will turn up some answers to help prevent it from ever happening again," said a spokeswoman for the Centers for Disease Control. (Read more bacteria stories.)