“It is a creature from the black lagoon. It bubbled up and now it is everywhere.” Dr. Tom Chiller, head of the CDC’s fungal branch is leading a global effort to combat a new infection that’s steadily killing hospitalized patients around the world: Candida auris. (1)
Candida auris, or C. auris, was first stumbled upon in Japan in 2009. Once the medical and scientific community was aware of it, they were able to trace its origin to as early as 1996 in a case from South Korea. (2) The strain of Candida fungus is quite new, but its impact is already deadly.
8 Things You Need to Know About Candida Auris
1. The CDC reports C. auris has been confirmed in more than 20 countries across the globe already, including the USA, Canada, the UK, Australia, China, and India. Many more countries are expected to be included in the count, as lab technology tries to catch up. (2)
2. From the data reported so far, the CDC estimates that somewhere between 30 and 60% of people infected with C. auris have died, with the caveat that most patients are already ill upon diagnosis. (2)
3. Antifungal medication generally used to treat other forms of fungal infections, including other candida strains, are usually not effective for a C. auris infection. (3)
4. C. auris is easy to miss. While the main symptoms of an infection include fever and chills, they are often masked by pre-existing symptoms of an unrelated condition. Only specialized laboratory technology can accurately identify C. auris and distinguish it from less dangerous types of fungi. (3) In countries with limited access to this technology, the potential for the infection to spread is elevated.
5. In may of 2018, the Brooklyn branch of Mount Sinai Hospital admitted an elderly man for abdominal surgery, then quickly discovered he tested positive for C. auris. After placing him in isolation in an ICU, the man died within 90 days. However, lab tests revealed the fungus continued to cover everything within his room.
“Everything was positive — the walls, the bed, the doors, the curtains, the phones, the sink, the whiteboard, the poles, the pump, the mattress, the bed rails, the canister holes, the window shades, the ceiling, everything in the room was positive.” Dr. Scott Lorin, the hospital’s president, told the New York Times. (1)
In order to completely cleanse the intensive care unit of C. auris, the hospital had to replace the flooring and ceilings and use specially developed cleaning equipment.
6. People who are already suffering from an illness are most at risk of a C. auris infection. Reports suggest the fungal infection spreads easily through hospitals and nursing homes, but does not pose a high threat to healthy staff and visitors. Nevertheless, strict hygiene procedures should be enforced to avoid spreading C. auris to nearby patients at risk. (4)
The CDC advises taking precautions such as isolating infected patients, using protective gowns and gloves while in the same room as the patient, and practicing excellent hand hygiene among visitors, patients, and healthcare personnel alike. (4)
7. Dr. Allison McGeer of Sinai Health System and the principal investigator of the Toronto Invasive Bacterial Diseases Network told CBC News, (5)
“When people who are very ill with cancer or a number of other immuno-compromising diseases come into the hospital, they need medication that is given through large intravenous lines. It’s a big plastic tube that goes from your skin into the centre of your bloodstream. And that plastic tube of course provides access for bacteria and fungi to go down the plastic tube — it’s a pathway into the bloodstream.
The fact that it’s in your bloodstream makes you sick. It’s a foreigner in your system, your body fights it, you get sick. But it can also settle out in different places, so the bloodstream can take it anywhere, to your brain, onto your heart valves. And once it’s set up there and starts to grow then it starts to cause tissue damage and that makes you more ill.”
8. The C. auris outbreaks are only one part of a growing trend of treatment-resistant “superbugs”. Dr. Lynn Sosa, Connecticut’s deputy state epidemiologist, told the New York Times that she now sees C. auris as “the top” threat among resistant infections. “It’s pretty much unbeatable and difficult to identify,” she said. (1)
The British government projected that without new policies to combat the increase in drug resistant infections, 10 million people could die from superbugs by 2050- 2 million more than the projections for cancer-related deaths. (6) Already, 2 million Americans get sick from resistant infections every year, with estimates of deaths reaching 162,000 people worldwide. (1)
Disclaimer: This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and is for information only. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions about your medical condition and/or current medication. Do not disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking advice or treatment because of something you have read here.