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Outbreak Of Drug-resistant Fungus Raises An Alarm In U.S.

The recent Candida auris cases are more concerning because none of the people had been treated with antifungal drugs prior to the diagnosis, which means the strain of the fungus they caught was already pan-resistant

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Divya Dhadd
Divya Dhadd
Journalist

UNITED STATES: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Thursday reported cases of people in Texas and Washington D.C. carrying or infected with strains of the fatal fungus Candida auris that were resistant to all classes of antifungal drugs before any treatment.

The drug-resistant “superbug” fungus is most commonly diagnosed in very sick people who are in specialized long-term facilities. The CDC reported that in both cities, the cases were clustered within long-term facilities. However, no known link was found between the Washington and Texas cases.

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The 30-day fatality rate among the patients in both outbreaks was 30%, but because these people were all severely ill, it isn’t possible to say if it was the C. auris fungal infection that played a role in their deaths.

People with weakened immune systems are vulnerable to this superbug. The CDC said that evidence points – these cases involved person-to-person transmission, which would be a first for the U.S.

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“This is really the first time we’ve started seeing clustering of resistance” in which patients seemed to be getting the infections from other patients, said the CDC’s Dr Meghan Lyman, a medical officer in the mycotic (fungal) diseases branch in CDC’s National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases.

From January through April of 2021, Washington, DC, had 101 reported cases of C. auris and Texas had 22, according to CDC.

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First seen in the U.S. in 2013, Candida auris, is “resistant to multiple anti-fungal drugs that we have, and it’s also resistant to all the things that we use to eradicate bacteria and fungal strains in the hospital,” Dr Neeta Ogden, an internal medicine specialist, told CBS News in 2019 when health officials raised an alarm about the emerging threat. 

Also Read: U.S. Tracks More Than 200 People For Monkeypox Exposure

Covid-19 raises high alert for C. auris

Lyman said that the Covid-19 pandemic has siphoned off surveillance capacity for other pathogens: “even before the pandemic, surveillance for drug-resistant fungal infections was spotty.”

Researchers say that despite the inadequacy of surveillance, the pandemic has fueled an increase in C. auris cases. 

“We tend to see transmission and see cases among patients who are in these high-acuity, long-term care facilities with very sick patients like ones who are on ventilators or have tracheostomy or other invasive medical devices,” Lyman said. “Getting Covid and then having these complications put them at higher risk for acquiring Candida auris.”

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