After years of back pain, Timothy Lunceford decided in July to try an injection of umbilical cord blood, an unproven treatment increasingly touted by chiropractors and pain doctors as a cure for achy joints. A day after he got the shots, Lunceford’s back began throbbing. After two days, he was feverish and could hardly move.
“It felt like someone stuck a knife into the middle of my back and just left it there,” said Lunceford, a 52-year-old wildlife biologist from Athens, Tex.
Lunceford said his wife rushed him to a hospital, where doctors found E. coli and a second type of bacteria in his blood. Nurses gave him antibiotics to fight life-threatening sepsis, and a neurosurgeon scraped infected tissue from his spine. For 58 days, Lunceford remained hospitalized, wracked by intense pain.
Over the past year, at least 17 people have been hospitalized after being injected with products made from umbilical cord blood, a little-known but fast-growing segment of the booming stem cell industry, according to state and federal health officials and patient reports. Sold as a miracle cure for...