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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is joining the investigation into a little-understood organism that has killed millions of fish along the mid-Atlantic and may be making people sick, too.

The CDC said Thursday it will study pfiesteria piscicida in several states where it has become a menace.

Last month, officials from several mid-Atlantic states urged the federal government to research the microbe. Congress has approved $7 million for the CDC to investigate.

Pfiesteria is blamed for killing millions of fish in North Carolina and Maryland. But the effect on people is unclear.

The agency will look closely at people in those areas who complain of memory loss, confusion and rashes from coming in contact with the water.

Pfiesteria is a one-celled organism that is usually harmless, until something triggers a change in form. It then emits a poison that stuns the fish and allows the bacteria to eat it.

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