WARNING: Killer fungal infection ‘sweeping the globe'
A KILLER fungal infection that's immune to drugs is said to be sweeping the globe, experts have warned.
The newly-discovered germ, called Candida auris, can remain on people's skin and objects, such as furniture and equipment in hospitals, for a long time.
It means it can be spread indirectly between patients and leave those with weak immune systems, including the sick, elderly and babies, more vulnerable.
Most worryingly of all is C.auris can be resistant to the three major classes of antifungal drugs - leaving doctors with few treatment options.
Over the last five years it has struck medical centres around the world, including a neonatal unit in Venezuela and a hospital in Spain.
It reached the UK in 2015, with the intensive care unit at the Royal Brompton Hospital in London being forced to close for 11 days after an outbreak.
In Australia, a Victorian man was diagnosed with the rare and deadly superbug.
This is the first known case of C. auris in Victoria, prompting authorities to adopt a "search and destroy" approach to prevent an outbreak.
The man in his 70s most likely contracted the infection while in a UK hospital, Victoria's deputy chief health officer Brett Sutton said.
According to the department, the superbug causes serious bloodstream infections and even death, "particularly in hospital and nursing home patients with serious medical problems".
Dr Johanna Rhodes, an infectious disease expert at Imperial College London, said she got a panicked call from the hospital saying they couldn't get rid of the fungus.
She told the New York Times she was told: "We have no idea where it's coming from. We've never heard of it. It's just spread like wildfire."
Under her direction, workers sprayed a special chemical around the room used for a patient with C.auris and left for a week.
They put a plate with gel in the bottom in the middle of the room, and the only organism that grew back was C.auris.
But the newspaper reports its spread was initially kept quiet.
The speciality lung and heart hospital alerted the British Government and told infected patients but made no public announcement.
Oliver Wilkinson, a spokesman for Royal Brompton, said: "There was no need to put a news release during the outbreak."
The most recent Public Health England figures show more than 200 patients across 20 separate NHS Trusts in Britain have been infected with C.auris.
Dr Colin Brown, consultant medical microbiologist for Public Health England's national infection service, said: "Candida auris is an uncommon fungus in the UK, and our enhanced surveillance shows a low risk to patients in healthcare settings.
"Most cases detected have not shown symptoms or developed an infection as a result of the fungus.
"PHE is working closely with the NHS to provide expert support and advice on infection control measures to limit the spread of Candida auris.
"NHS hospitals that have experienced outbreaks of Candida auris have not found it to be the cause of death in any patients."
In the US, there has been 587 reported cases, mostly in New York, New Jersey and Illinois, prompting the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to add C.auris to its list of "urgent threats".
A study published last year in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases found 45 per cent of patients died within 90 days of being diagnosed with the infection.
Nearly all of the samples from the 51 patients in facilities in New York City were resistant to fluconazole, a commonly used antifungal drug.
WHAT IS CANDIDA AURIS?
Candia auris is a fungus that, when it gets into the bloodstream, can cause dangerous infections that can be life-threatening. Those most at risk are people with weak immune systems, especially those who are already sick, the elderly and newborns. It was first identified in a patient in Japan in 2009. C.auris can be resistant to the major antifungal drugs, meaning it could be fatal in some cases.
W HY IS IT A MAJOR HEALTH CONCERN
It causes serious infections: C. auris can cause bloodstream infections and even death, particularly in hospital and nursing home patients with serious medical problems. More than one in three patients with an invasive C. auris infection (for example, an infection that affects the blood, heart, or brain) die.
It's often resistant to medicines: Antifungal medicines commonly used to treat Candida infections often don't work for Candida auris. Some C. auris infections have been resistant to all three types of antifungal medicines.
It's becoming more common: Although C. auris was just discovered in 2009, it has spread quickly and caused infections or facility outbreaks in more than a dozen countries.
It's difficult to identify: C. auris can be misidentified as other types of fungi unless specialised laboratory technology is used. This misidentification might lead to a patient getting the wrong treatment.
It can spread in hospitals and nursing homes: C. auris has caused outbreaks in healthcare facilities and can spread through contact with affected patients and contaminated surfaces or equipment. Good hand hygiene and cleaning in healthcare facilities is essential because C. auris can live on surfaces for several weeks.
This article originally appeared on The Sun and was reproduced with permission