Hygiene at frontline of fight against deadly new 'superfungus'

Health insurance The patient was treated at the hospital with the health of the insured

Health insurance The patient was treated at the hospital with the health of the insured

Candida auris first popped up on the CDC's global radar in 2016, and it wasn't long before the first cases of infection were reported in the U.S. According to the CDC's latest figures, the number of confirmed cases in the U.S. has risen to 617, with the majority of them clustered in New York City, New Jersey and Chicago.

Over the last five years, it has hit a neonatal unit in Venezuela, swept through a hospital in Spain, forced a prestigious British medical centre to shut down its intensive care unit, and taken root in India, Pakistan and South Africa.

As of March 18, the Department of Health for NY said it had recorded 309 cases of the disease where the patient fell ill while it found an additional 429 cases where people carried the disease on their body but weren't infected.

The germ, a fungus called Candida auris, preys on people with weakened immune systems, and it is quietly spreading across the globe.

People who get invasive Candida infections are often already sick from other medical conditions, so it can be hard to know if you have a C.auris infection.

In the U.S., two million people contract resistant infections annually, and 23,000 die from them, according to the official CDC estimate. "As special precautions are needed to prevent the spread of this pathogen, prompt identification is essential". In hospitals, they spread quickly because they can colonize in the hands of health workers, equipment and surroundings.

"It's important to note that we have no idea where candida auris has come from", says Johanna Rhodes an expert in infectious diseases at Imperial College London. Outside the US, C. auris has been discovered in over 20 countries worldwide, according to the CDC.

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The New York Times report explains that even though cases have been detected since 2009, some hospitals have made an intentional effort not to publicize the information to the public.

It adds to the growing number of nosocomial infections that worsen outcomes for seriously ill patients, increasing mortality and the length of hospital stays. "It hadn't impacted our surgical outcomes".

He warned that the CDC's tally of patients is only of those who have the fungus and the symptoms, and that there will be others that are carrying the fungus without symptoms but still have the capacity to infect others. More recently there has been a similar evolution in fungi.

Dr Heather Hendrickson, senior lecturer in molecular biosciences, Massey University, comments: "Essentially, Candida auris is a yeast, not a bacterium".

The fungal infection Candida auris that has affected people around the world has been detected in several Indian hospitals as well.

"The sicker you are, the more of a problem you have with your immune system, the more procedures you have done, then you will be much more prone to get Candida auris", Dr. Louie said.

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