NEW YORK/LOS ANGELES - US health officials made their first confirmation of the presence of a deadly fungus in one of three lots of steroids tied to a national meningitis outbreak as the death toll rose to 20 on Thursday.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said it was still testing two additional lots of methylprednisolone acetate, the steroid used to treat back pain, for the presence of the rare Exserohilum fungus. It is also testing other injectable drugs that were supplied by the New England Compounding Center, or NECC, in Massachusetts.

"Now we can definitively say that the injections are linked to the infection," Dr. Tom Chiller, an epidemiologist with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told Reuters in an interview. "To date, CDC has no firm evidence of infection in any patients beyond those exposed to the contaminated lots."

THE CDC said the death toll climbed by one to 20, while nine new cases brought the national total to 254, including the first in New York - the 16th state with confirmed infections.

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