CDC sounds alarm on resistant superbug fungus after NYC outbreak

Candida Auris Mysterious and dangerous fungal infection

An article published in the New York Times claimed the deadly fungus has recently reached New York, New Jersey and IL, prompting the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to add it to the list of risky and violent bacteria. Since then, it has caused at least 587 illnesses in the U.S. More than 300 of those cases were reported in NY state. In a 2018 study appearing in Emerging Infectious Diseases, 45% of patients with C. auris died within 90 days.

[Image: courtesy of CDC] The CDC is recommending that laboratories and healthcare facilities with suspected cases immediately contact the CDC-along with state and local health authorities-for guidance.

NY has seen more than 300 cases, while there have been 144 cases in IL, most in Chicago.

The fungus can infect wounds, ears and the bloodstream and take root in the urinary tract. "Since it is an environmental contaminant, the hospital could become a potential source of infection", he says, stressing the need for upgraded hospital labs to identify the strain, trained and alert staff and access to new generation drugs.

Elderly sick patients and ill infants tend to be the most vulnerable to the germs. Treatments still exist but it is resistant to many antifungal drugs and has developed new mechanisms of resistance in some patients within weeks. Resistant germs called "superbugs" have been known to be most deadly to people with weak immune systems such as newborns, elderly, smokers, diabetics and people with autoimmune disorders who utilize steroids that limit their body's defenses. A blood test revealed that he was infected with a fungus called Candida Auris, which has recently been found to be particularly lethal.

Map showing the prevalence of Candida auris spread worldwide.

The spread, in the face of rising drug resistance, has triggered the CDC to update its guidelines - urging medics to quarantine C auris sufferers.

Candida auris can be challenging to identify because the symptoms are so similar to the flu or common cold that testing for the fungus is often overlooked.

Are Candida auris infections treatable?

"It's an enormous problem", professor of fungal epidemiology at Imperial College London Matthew Fisher told the Times.

"In this situation, multiple antifungal medications at high doses may be needed to treat the infection", the CDC said. "In several patients, by the time we had made the correct diagnosis, it was too late".

"In the fungal world, C.auris is a bad bug", says Dr Abdul Ghafur, Coordinator with the Chennai Declaration on AMR. While it doesn't spread person to person, CDC warns that this fungus lingers on the skin and surfaces for a prolonged period of time so that any setting can be infected for a long time.

The fungus mostly affects people who have existing illnesses, and may already be hospitalized with compromised immune systems, health officials said.

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