A drug-resistant fungal infection has been confirmed in Maryland, can live in hospitals and the CDC says it's a "global health threat."
MARYLAND — A drug-resistant fungus infection called "a serious global health threat" by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been confirmed in Maryland. The cases of "Candida auris," a serious and sometimes fatal fungal infection, have been identified in a total of 12 states across the country, health experts say.
The CDC says there have been three confirmed cases of C. auris, otherwise known as the "Superbug," in Maryland and one in Virginia. Neighboring New Jersey has seen 101 confirmed and 22 probable cases; New York has had 309 confirmed cases; and Illinois has had 144 cases. The CDC says there have been 587 confirmed cases across the country.
This yeast is difficult to identity and often does not respond to commonly used anti-fungal drugs, leading to high mortality, according to Rutgers University officials who are researching the superbug. Based on information from a limited number of patients, the CDC says 30 to 60 percent of people with C. auris infections have died. However, many of these people had other serious illnesses that also increased their risk of death.
According to The New York Times, the Candida auris fungus can cause life-threatening infections when it enters a person's bloodstream. The newspaper reports that an estimated 90 percent of the infections are resistant to one antifungal drug.
"It's acting like a superbug," Paige Armstrong, CDC Epidemic Intelligence Service officer, has said. "Without appropriate infection control and really a rigorous response, [it] could lead to even more cases in the United States."
Candida grows as yeast, and symptoms include difficulty swallowing, burning, genital itching and sometimes a cheese-like discharge that looks white, according to the CDC.
Scientists discovered C. auris in 2009. "The medical and public health communities are concerned that C. auris infections are becoming more common," said the Maryland Department of Health.
The fungus can spread by either person-to-person contact (including from people without symptoms), or from contact with a contaminated object. Maryland health authorities say it can potentially survive on surfaces for several weeks.
Infections in the bloodstream, wound and ear are symptoms of the fungus. But Candida auris can also live on people's skin or in their urine without causing any symptoms, the state health agency says.
Candida auris infections are more likely to occur in people who have weakened immune systems, such as in people who have blood cancers or diabetes. People who have certain medical devices — including breathing tubes, feeding tubes, intravenous catheters, or bladder catheters — are also at higher risk for developing C. auris infections. Most C. auris infection outbreaks have occurred among patients who already have serious illnesses and are in hospitals and nursing homes.
Fungal infections often cause serious disease among patients with compromised immune systems or other debilitating conditions resulting in high morbidity and mortality. Globally, nearly 1.4 million deaths a year are attributed to invasive fungal infections, which is on par with deadly diseases like tuberculosis, the health organization says.
For more information on Candida auris, visit the Centers for Disease Control website.
Includes reporting by Patch Editor Tom Davis