Over 30 people have been diagnosed with a deadly fungal infection that has proven resistant to drugs, since health authorities issued a warning in July 2016.
The fungus is a strain of yeast called Candida auris, and has been rapidly spreading, infecting dozens of people in various countries since it was discovered in 2009 in a patient with an ear infection in Japan. The fungus has since been reported in Colombia, Israel, Kenya, Kuwait, South Korea, Venezuela and the United Kingdom, Tech Times reports.
This strain poses more severe health threats compared to other forms of yeast infection, because it infects the bloodstream and spreads from person to person in health care environments. Other candida infections target the throat, vagina and mouth, but invasive yeast strains affect the heart, bones, brain, eyes and other parts of the body, making them dangerous.
In addition, this particular fungal strain is able to survive on human skin for months, and stay on hospital equipment such as chairs and bed rails for weeks. Some of these yeast infections have been resistant to all three major kinds of antifungal medicines.
In the United States alone, 71% of the C. auris strains showed resistance to drug treatments, making them difficult to heal. According to health officials, the pathogen is one among a group of drug-resistant threats that have been emerging recently. Statistics show that 35 patients have been identified so far, and 18 more were carrying the fungus, although they showed no signs of sickness.
The CDC said in a statement,
Based on laboratory testing, the U.S. strains were found to be related to strains from South Asia and South America. However, none of the patients travelled to or had any direct links to those regions. Most patients likely acquired the infections locally.
New York has the most number of infections in the country with 28 reported cases, with infections reported in Maryland, Illinois, Massachusetts and New Jersey.
Sixty percent of cases were fatal, especially for those who had other serious illnesses. Patients with a high risk of infections include those who just had surgery, use broad-spectrum antibiotics and antifungals, those with diabetes, and patients who have central line catheters inserted in a large vein.