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Steep Hill Helps UC Davis Researchers Investigate Patient Deaths Linked to Fungal Infection

When a California medical cannabis patient died of a mysterious fungal infection, researchers at UC Davis wanted to know if the pathogen existed in the herbal remedy. Due to the federal prohibition of cannabis, the state school could not investigate cannabis directly. With the goal of linking the fungal infection to pathogens found on existing cannabis, UC Davis Medical Center requested that Steep Hill Labs in Berkeley conduct the tests on their behalf.

As reported by KPIX 5: “It started with a couple patients that were undergoing very intensive chemotherapy and a stem cell therapy, and those patients were very immune compromised,” explained Dr. Joseph Tuscano of the University of California, Davis Cancer Center. Those patients were already in a very serious cancer fight when that fight suddenly became much more complicated with a relatively rare but particularly lethal fungal infection. “We thought it was strange to have cases of such a bad fungal disease in such a short amount of time,” said Dr. George Thompson, a fungal infection expert with UC Davis Medical Center.


“Klebsiella, E.coli, Pseudomonas, Acinetobacter, these are all very serious infections for anybody in the hospital.” - Dr. George Thompson, UC Davis Medical Center.

One glaring fact pointed to a potential suspect: both individuals were medical cannabis patients. Unfortunately, the difference between federal and state law rendered UC Davis Medical Center incapable of performing any investigation on cannabis products. With cannabis currently listed under the Controlled Substances Act as 'Schedule 1', researchers are left unable to touch the plant without federal approval; in most cases, according to Dr. Donald Abrams, Chief of Hematology and Oncology at UCSF, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) almost exclusively approves studies examining the dangers of cannabis. As the group responsible for granting access to federal marijuana, NIDA continues to stifle any research aimed at substantiating the positive medical values of cannabis-based chemistry.

“90% of those samples had something on them. Some DNA of some pathogen." - Donald Land, Ph.D.

In order to identify the origin of the pathogens, UC Davis Medical Center leveraged the scientific expertise of Steep Hill Labs in completing the investigation. Our team collected 20 samples from different dispensary menus in California, then proceeded to identify the presence of molds and fungi.