A hard-to-kill, sometimes deadly fungus has resurfaced in an American hospital. This week, Oregon health officials reported a hospital outbreak of the hardy fungus Candida auris. While C. auris infections remain rare in the US, its presence appears to be growing, with these being the first ever reported cases in the state.
The outbreak so far involves three patients at Seattle and Salem Hospital, according to the Oregon Health Authority and the Department of Human Services. The first infection was discovered on Dec. 11, involving a patient who had “recent international health care exposures.” The other two patients had not traveled recently, but may have been exposed to the first patient, suggesting local transmission within the hospital. The latest case was confirmed Monday, just a day before health officials in Oregon announced their investigation into the outbreak.
C. auris is a relatively new threat that may have only recently emerged evolved to harm people. It is an alarming germ because it is often resistant to most or all conventional antifungals. And while it isn’t usually very dangerous for people with healthy immune systems, it can easily kill people in poorer health, including those hospitalized for other reasons. Its ability to spread quickly and persist in home-settled environments, even in the face of standard decontamination, only adds to its fearsome reputation.
Documented outbreaks of C. auris to date have generally been small and isolated. But there are signs that we’re likely to see the fungus more often in the coming years and that it’s learning new tricks. There were two unrelated outbreaks in Texas and Washington DC reported this year, for example, with some cases of completely drug-resistant strains being transferred between patients – the first time this has been documented here. And like so many things, the Covid-19 pandemic has probably only made C. auris a bigger problem. Recent outbreaks of the fungal infection in countries such as Brazil have emerged during peaks of the pandemic that strained hospitals to breaking point.
However, in these most recent cases, the yeast appears to be a milder version of itself. “Fortunately, the organism we are dealing with in this outbreak appears to be responding to existing treatments,” Rebecca Pierce, a program manager for healthcare-associated infections at OHA, said in a statement. rack of the agency. “Nevertheless, it is critical that we prevent the spread of the infection.”
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C. auris is just one example of the festering superbug crisis facing the world. More than 2.8 million resistant infections are estimated occur annually in the US, along with at least 35,000 deaths. And while scientists are trying to develop new drugs that can replace antimicrobials that have lost their potency or find other ways to slow the timeline of resistance, relatively little progress has been made. In the coming decades it is possible that superbugs will kill more people every year than cancer.
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