A drug-resistant superbug fungus has been identified in more than 30 countries and has sickened nearly 600 people across the United States in recent years, including more than 300 patients in New York State, the CDC reported.
The fungus, a type of yeast called Candida auris, can lead to serious, hard-to-treat infections of the blood, brain, heart and more. Candida auris, which preys on people with weakened immune systems, can be deadly. It is difficult to identify and has caused outbreaks in health care facilities around the world, emerging as a "serious global health threat," according to the CDC.
Resistant to Antifungals = Superbug
Many C. auris samples have been resistant to two main antifungal medications and can become resistant to a third even as a patient is being treated.
This is why some are calling Candida auris a superbug, a name typically given to bacteria that's resistant to antibiotics. "We've seen it become resistant to all three classes of antifungals, making it a superbug, making it really untreatable, because there is no drug that kills it," Dr. Tom Chiller, chief of the CDC's Mycotic Diseases Branch, told CNN.
The first documented U.S. patient became ill in 2013, and since then, health officials had confirmed 587 cases in a dozen states as of the end of February. Most cases have been concentrated in New Jersey, the New York City area and the Chicago area. An additional 1,056 patients who were screened for C. auris in seven states were found to be carrying the fungus but did not get sick from it.
Investigators first identified the fungus in Japan in 2009, though subsequent review shows the earliest known strain of C. auris appeared in 1996 in South Korea. The strain's relatively recent emergence and unique behavior has baffled many in the public health community, and a New York Times series shows that hospitals and health agencies have been reluctant to discuss their cases out of concern they will be viewed as "infection hubs."
Important to Know
The fungus acts like bacteria and can live on surfaces for several weeks. People in hospitals, nursing homes, and clinics have a higher risk of falling ill from Candida auris, which lives on contaminated equipment and surfaces in such settings. C. auris can spread quickly in medical settings through contact with contaminated equipment or personal contact with an infected person. The fungus can live on your skin and not cause an infection. But if it infects a wound or your blood, it can be fatal.
Infections are most common in people with already weakened immune systems, people who have taken antibiotics or antifungal medications, have had recent surgery or spent time in a nursing home, and those who have a tube going into their body – such as a breathing tube or IV device – though the CDC says further study is needed to fully understand risk factors. Among a set of 127 cases confirmed in Illinois, for example, 77% of patients had an IV device. Infections have been identified in "patients of all ages, from preterm infants to the elderly," the CDC says.
Symptoms of Candida auris
According to the CDC, symptoms of the fungus may be difficult to detect because patients are often already sick and only a lab test can identify the superbug. Candida auris can cause different types of infections, including bloodstream infection, wound infection, and ear infection. Candida auris infections may be difficult to recognize, Bernard Camins, MD, medical director for infection prevention at Mount Sinai Health System in New York, tells Health. "The symptoms may not be any different from any other infection you see." They include fever, weakness, low blood pressure, and feeling tired.
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.
"Based on information from a limited number of patients, 30 – 60% of people with C. auris infections have died. However, many of these people had other serious illnesses that also increased their risk of death," the CDC said.
What Facilities May Be Affected Is Not Clear
A recent New York Times report highlighted the fact that it's not always clear which facilities are affected. That's because hospital staff members don't have to announce to the public if Candida auris has been detected within their facility. In fact, the CDC isn't allowed to publicly recognize hospitals that are trying to manage the spread of Candida auris and other potentially dangerous bugs, according to the Times report.
Some say announcing the spread of a deadly fungus at a hospital would do more harm than good, keeping people from seeking medical care when they need it. Others say withholding that information isn't fair. "Who's speaking up for the baby that got the flu from the hospital worker or for the patient who got MRSA from a bedrail? The idea isn't to embarrass or humiliate anyone, but if we don't draw more attention to infectious disease outbreaks, nothing is going to change," Arthur Caplan, PhD, told the New York Times.
What You Can Do
According to the CDC:
Healthy Americans "probably have a low chance of Candida auris infection."
Along with taking MBi 30ppm Colloidal Silver daily as your fast-acting broad-spectrum immune support, you should wash your hands carefully and frequently if you're visiting or caring for someone in a health care facility. If you're going to be there often, you might want to consider wiping surfaces around you down with bleach every now and then.
Sources for article: CDC, CNN, CBS News, New York Times, U.S. News & World Report and Yahoo Health.