Federal health officials notified U.S. clinicians last June to be wary of a new deadly fungal infection. Since then, more than three dozen individuals in the U.S. have been infected.
The strain of fungus, known as Candida auris, was first reported in Japan in 2009 and has since been found in ten other countries, including the United States. The spread of the fungus is thought to be more widespread because it cannot be identified with standard lab procedures.
Reports of this fungal infection are mostly from New York. Other infections are from Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, and New Jersey.
Unlike common fungal or yeast infections that only infect the skin or the genitals, Candida auris infects the bloodstream. The result is a deadlier, often fatal, infection because of its impact on numerous parts of the body, including the blood, heart, eyes, and bones.
Furthermore, this fungus is highly resistant to all three classes of anti-fungal drugs. Its ability to survive for months on skin and various surfaces allows it to be easily spread from person to person or in a healthcare setting, such as a hospital.
A majority of the spread of this fungal infection has occurred in hospitals. Data suggest that the fungus contaminates surfaces and equipment, which then come into contact with patients who are checked into the hospital for other reasons. Tom Chiller, the top fungal expert at the Center for Disease Control (CDC), says that this fungus “seems to get into hospital settings and stay there.”
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Individuals with diabetes, patients taking antibiotic or anti-fungal medication, and patients with catheters are at risk for contracting this fungal infection. Patients who have been in intensive care for a long period of time or who are having surgery are at the highest risk of contracting the infection.
Based on limited data from infected patients, 60 percent of individuals who were infected died. Many of these individuals had serious medical issues that may have had a significant influence on their cause of death.
In order to stop the spread of this fungus, the CDC recommends that infected patients be given their own room and that these private rooms are disinfected daily with an EPA-registered anti-fungal disinfectant. Fortunately, the United States does not have any native strains of Candida auris, so it is more feasible to contain the fungus.
This fungus is highly contagious and highly resistant, but because it is a fungus, it does not generate the same kind of alarm that an antibiotic-resistant bacterium would. The CDC has subsequently provided the funds and expertise necessary to identify and contain it.
Source: Sun, L. H. (2017, March 10). Deadly fungal infection that doctors have been fearing now reported in U.S.