A deadly super fungus (mold) has been linked to four deaths of hospital patients in the U.S., according to a new report issued Friday by the Center for Disease Control (CDC).
In the CDC statement, the agency claimed that the fungus is called Candida auris and has been detected in a total of 13 patients since May 2013. CDC Director, Thomas Frieden had said, “We need to act now to better understand, contain and stop the spread of this drug-resistant fungus. This is an emerging threat, and we need to protect vulnerable patients and others.”
Candida auris is a species of fungus that grows as yeast and is ascomycetous. It is one of the few species of the Candida genus that cause the infection candidiasis in humans. More than 20 types of Candida can cause infection with Candida albicans being the most common. Systemic candidiasis occurs when Candida yeast enters the bloodstream and may spread (becoming disseminated candidiasis) to other organs, including the central nervous system, kidneys, liver, bones, muscles, joints, spleen, or eyes. However Candida auris is a multidrug resistant, emerging agent of fungemia in humans.
According to the CDC, Candida auris, an emerging fungus that can cause invasive infections, is associated with high mortality and is often resistant to multiple antifungal drugs. C. auris was first described in 2009 after being isolated from external ear canal discharge of a patient in Japan. Since then, reports of C. auris infections, including bloodstream infections, have been published from several countries, including Colombia, India, Israel, Kenya, Kuwait, Pakistan, South Africa, South Korea, Venezuela, and the United Kingdom.
It appears that the over zealous prescribing of antibiotics to patients is contributing to the fungal outbreak. The Kaiser Health Foundation had reported, “Hospitalized patients are at especially high risk from the fungus because many have had antibiotics, which can kill off healthy bacteria that help protect us from disease, said Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.
“It’s a warning or wake-up against the indiscriminate use of antibiotics, especially in hospital settings,” Hotez said.
USA Today reported, “Hospitals have been testing for the fungus more frequently due to outbreaks in Asia and the United Kingdom, said Amesh Adalja, senior associate at the Center for Health Security at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.
In earlier outbreaks, the fungus killed 59% of patients, including 68% of patients whose infection spread to the bloodstream, said Adalja, who also published a report on the infection Friday. Previous patients had a median age of 54, Adalja said.
The most common underlying medical problem was diabetes, and half of the patients had undergone surgery within 90 days. Nearly 80% of patients had a catheter placed in a major vein in the chest and 61% had a urinary catheter.
“Candida auris is a major threat that carries a high mortality,” Adalja said. “Candida fungal species are ubiquitous … As we learn more about this species it will be essential to understand how it spreads in health care facilities and what the best infection control and treatment strategies are.”
We reported about this deadly fungus back in June when doctors in England had identified this new strain of fungi causing outbreaks in hospitals. Public Health England said “Candida auris appears to be unlike other pathogenic yeast species in its propensity for transmission between hospital patients” and warned it was resistant to the first choice anti-fungal drug.
Dr Berit Muller-Pebody, from Public Health England, said: “This species of Candidais emerging globally.
Prof Neil Gow, from the University of Aberdeen, said, “Yet there are no vaccines and there is a “pressing need” for new treatments.