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ALERT: Deadly, Highly-Resistant Fungal Infection Reported in 5 States

Mar 14, 2017 11:57 AM EDT
Blood Samples
Over 30 people across five states are sickened by fatal, highly-resistant Candida auris.
(Photo : David Silverman/Getty Images)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has confirmed that over 30 people across five states are sickened by a serious and sometimes fatal fungal infection that has been spreading worldwide since its discovery in 2009.

According to CDC's maps of cases in the United States, a total of 35 people were infected by the fungus candida auris. Out of those, 28 live in New York, three in Illinois, two in New Jersey, on in Maryland and one in Massachusetts.

C. auris is an emerging fungus that presents a serious global health threat. So far, this yeast is known to cause infections in the bloodstream, wound and ears. However, it has been isolated from respiratory and urine specimens of some patients.

CDC first released a clinical alert for C.auris in June 2016. Health officials noted that C.auris has the potential to cause outbreaks in healthcare settings. This fungus can be easily transferred from person to person. It can survive for months on patient's skin and weeks on hospital equipments, including bed rails and chairs.

"These pathogens are increasing, they're new, they're scary and they're very difficult to combat," said Anne Schuchat, CDC's acting director, in a report from Sacramento Bee.

Aside from its ability to survive and transfer, CDC is also concerned regarding the multi-drug resistance of C.auris. the fungus detected in the U.S. doesn't seem to be evolving, unlike in other countries where the infections were already resistant to all three major types of antifungal drugs.

Additionally, C.auris is difficult to identify with standard laboratory methods. CDC noted that conventional laboratory techniques could misidentify the fungus and lead to inappropriate treatment.

Last year, CDC identified seven cases of C.auris that occurred between May2013 and August 2016. Out of those, four patients died weeks to months after being diagnosed with the fungal infection.

So far, health officials identified 18 individuals, in addition to the 35 infected patients, who are carrying the fungus but were not sickened by it.

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