10 April, 2019
Drug-resistant infections, known as superbugs, have come into the spotlight this week after a report in the New York Times chronicled the escalation of a drug-resistant fungus called Candida auris around the world, and how hospitals have managed to keep it quiet - until now.
The first reported case of C. auris occurred in the United States in 2013, when a 61-year-old woman with respiratory failure came to NY from the United Arab Emirates, according to the Times.
A powerful superbug is spreading in hospitals all around the world and it's emerging as a serious global health threat.
Given the speed at which the inspection spreads, coupled with its resistance to medication, "the prospect of an endemic or epidemic multidrug-resistant yeast in U.S. healthcare facilities is troubling", the CDC said in October.
In this country, the large majority of cases are in the NY and New Jersey metro area. The first cases of disease-causing C. Auris were reported from South Korea in 2011.
Candida auris, which preys on people with weakened immune systems, was first identified in 2009 and first seen in this country in 2013.
While C. auris is resistant to some antifungal drugs, it is susceptible to others that can be used to treat it.
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- Nelesh Govender, Professor - The National Institute for Communicable DiseasesIt most commonly occurs among people with compromised immune systems. Some 41% of the Spanish hospital patients affected died within 30 days of being diagnosed.
The strain of Candida auris cultured in a petri dish.
Nicole Kirgan, a spokeswoman for the New Jersey Department of Health, said she didn't know whether any of the state's cases have been fatal, and couldn't say which hospitals are treating people with the fungus because they have not, so far, been required to report their cases to state officials. Unfortunately, Candida auris falls in the latter category. People who recently had surgery, live in nursing homes, or who have breathing tubes, feeding tubes or central venous catheters appear to be at highest risk.
Chakrabarti adds that C.auris was increasingly catching the attention of healthcare providers because it resides largely in hospital ICUs and spreads fast.
The move is meant to protect centers and states from panic and media attention, but experts warn it is leaving the general public in the dark about a serious threat. Oliver Wilkinson, a spokesman for the Royal Brompton Hospital, a hospital where C. auris had spread in 2015, said "there was no need to put out a news release during the outbreak". Such over-prescribing has reduced the effectiveness of the drugs, allowing once curable bacterial infections to thrive once again.
The fungus has been found on surfaces in hospital rooms and on the skin of nurses and patients - even after patients were treated with antifungal medications.
Since Candida auris infections generally occur in people who are already sick with serious medical conditions, it can be hard to determine cause of death.