India-made spray linked to rare illness in U.S.

This undated photo provided by Walmart and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows a bottle of Better Homes & Gardens aromatherapy lavender & chamomile essential oil and semiprecious stone-infused room spray.   | Photo Credit: AP

A made-in-India aromatherapy spray is being pulled off retail giant Walmart’s shelves in the United States after a medical investigation linked it to melioidosis, a rare disease that has sickened at least four, and may have caused two deaths, in the country. The spray was reported to contain a bacterium, Burkholderia pseudomallei, that causes a rare but deadly disease called melioidosis, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said in a statement on Friday.

The spray, “Better Homes and Gardens Lavender & Chamomile Essential Oil Infused Aromatherapy Room Spray with Gemstones”, was found on October 6 in the home of a Georgia resident who became ill with melioidosis in late July.

Other than mentioning that the spray was manufactured in India, no other details on the spray’s origins were disclosed.

The contaminated spray was sold at 55 Walmart stores on the company’s website from February to October 21 of this year, when Walmart pulled the remaining bottles of the spray and related products from its store shelves.

A spokesperson for Walmart, in response to queries from The Hindu, said that the room spray was manufactured by “Flora Classique Inc.” and sold under the “Better Homes & Gardens” brand. “We pulled the product from the shelves of about 55 stores where it was part of a pilot programme,” the spokesperson wrote.

Flora Classique, an online search showed, is registered in Wildomar, California, the U.S. Its website says it is “...affliated with Ramesh Flowers Pvt Ltd. In Tuticorin India, one of the largest manufacturers and exporters of Home Fragrance and Home Decor products in India since its inception in 1982”. Since 2018, the company has been a part of the Gala Candles Group, a German company.

The CDC has been testing blood samples from patients as well as soil, water and consumer products in and around patients’ homes since they began receiving samples in May.

A sample of the Better Homes & Gardens spray tested positive for the bacterium this week and genetic analysis revealed that it was similar to the strains found in South Asia, the CDC statement noted.

Melioidosis is a rare but serious disease in the United States with 12 cases reported annually. The causative bacterium is extremely elusive and hard to detect and the disease symptoms it manifests are frequently mistaken for other diseases.

The true burden of the disease is unknown in India but a 2016 modelling study by scientists at the University of Oxford predicted a global incidence of around 165,000 cases worldwide with an estimated case fatality of 89,000 (54%). This study suggested melioidosis to be endemic to India with an annual incidence of close to 52,500 cases. Treatment usually involves a long intensive course of intravenously delivered anti-microbial therapy.

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Printable version | Dec 8, 2021 8:11:13 PM |

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