Nobody knows how it came into existence, or how to eradicate it, but Candida auris, or C. auris, is a fungus resistant to multiple drugs, that has been spreading in hospitals and nursing homes worldwide, including in the U.S.
In this country, the large majority of cases are in the New York and New Jersey metro area.
The fungal germs can cause blood infections, and in more than one-third of patients with serious cases, death.
C. auris was first detected in 2009 in Japan, and is now in more than a dozen countries.
The CDC has recorded 587 cases in the United States, with 309 of those cases in New York, primarily concentrated in the New York City area. There are also 104 recorded cases in New Jersey. Combined, New York and New Jersey account for more than 70% of U.S. cases.
Last year, an elderly patient at Mount Sinai Brooklyn hospital was infected with C. auris after surgery. Just 90 days after he was admitted, the man died, according to a report in the New York Times. Tests showed the fungus had initially been all over his hospital room.
The hospital needed special equipment for the cleanup, and had to rip out pieces of the floor and ceiling to remove the fungus from the facility, according to the Times report.
Specifically, the hospital told PIX11 News in a statement, "As a health system, we have been at the forefront of developing infection prevention protocols working closely with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH), and the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH). These protocols include special contact precautions, the use of effective disinfectants to clean all surfaces, routine culturing methods to quickly identify patients who are colonized or infected, and constant monitoring throughout our System. Successful implementation of these protocols have led to the eradication of this resistant germ at Mount Sinai Brooklyn."
C. auris symptoms may not be noticeable because patients are often already sick with another illness when they become infected. Contracting the fungal infection can lead to other health problems, including bloodstream infection, wound infections and ear infections.
Elderly sick patients and ill infants tend to be the most vulnerable to the germs. However, many health care experts warn that if the U.S. health care system doesn’t start using antibiotics more restrictively, a larger part of the population can become susceptible, as C. auris increases its resistance to medications.
For now, the fungus can be treated with anti-fungal medications called echinocandins.
C. auris has caused outbreaks in hospitals and nursing homes and is spread through contact with affected patients and contaminated areas.
To help prevent the spread of the infection, proper hand hygiene and infection control measures should be followed.