The most worrying ‘superbug’ on the CDC’s radar has infected more than 600 Americans in recent years – and officials say the spread is picking up pace globally.
But hospitals are not obliged to inform patients if they have the infection, which is most commonly contracted in hospitals, according to an alarming new feature by the New York Times.
Candida auris, a harmful form of yeast, is resistant to most drugs, with a 60 percent mortality rate.
In the US, 300 New Yorkers people have been infected since 2013, 144 in Illinois and 104 in New Jersey, with hundreds more in the UK, South Africa, India, Colombia, Venezuela and more.
The spread, in the face of rising drug resistance, has triggered the CDC to update its guidelines – urging medics to quarantine C auris sufferers.
However, according to the New York Times, CDC rules allow states and hospitals to keep their infection count secret.
The move is intended to protect centers and states from panic and media attention, but experts warn it is leaving the general public in the dark about a serious threat.
Candida auris, a harmful form of yeast, is ‘pretty much unbeatable and difficult to identify’, according to Connecticut’s state epidemiologist
First identified in Japan in 2009, the fungus has spread to more than 12 countries around the globe.
Between 2013 and April 2017, there had been 66 cases in the US.
Now, there have been 587, with 30 more probable cases.
‘It’s pretty much unbeatable and difficult to identify,’ Dr Lynn Sosa, deputy state epidemiologist of Connecticut, told the New York Times.
CDC analyses show most cases (around 86 percent) are resistant to the common anti-fungal treatment fluconazole, about half (43 percent) were resistant to amphotericin B, which is used for aggressive fungal infections, and 3 percent were resistant to echinocandins – the standard treatment for a bacterial infection like this.
According to a 2017 report, most cases were spread in hospitals or between family members.
‘In Illinois, three cases were associated with the same long-term care facility,’ the researchers wrote in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
‘In New York and New Jersey, cases were identified in multiple acute care hospitals, but further investigation found most had overlapping stays at interconnected long-term care facilities and acute care hospitals within a limited geographic area.
‘The case in Massachusetts was linked to the Illinois cases.’
Screening of 390 close contacts showed that 12 percent were colonized by C auris.
Testing of patients’ rooms also recovered C auris from ‘mattresses, beds, windowsills, chairs, infusion pumps, and countertops…. C auris was not isolated from rooms after thorough cleaning with a sodium hypochlorite–based disinfectant.’
What also makes the fungus so dangerous is that its difficult to recognize and is often misidentified as other related yeasts – many might not determine that they actually have a serious infection on hand.
‘It’s acting like a superbug’ bacteria, said Dr Paige Armstrong of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The fungus has been found on surfaces in hospital rooms and on the skin of nurses and patients – even after patients were treated with antifungal medications.
The most vulnerable to the superbug are fragile hospital patients, particularly newborns and the elderly.
It tends to be diagnosed in patients after they’ve been in hospitals for several weeks. The fungus can infect wounds, ears and the bloodstream and take root in the urinary tract.
US clinicians have been warned to watch for the fungus in hospitals. Patients who have undergone recent surgery, used central venous catheters, or been hospitalized for lengthy periods, as well as those with diabetes, are particularly at risk.
About 60 percent of those who’ve been infected with C auris have died, the CDC said.