The new deadly superbug and it’s probably our fault

You have probably heard about people not coming to the hospital because they are afraid to catch a new infection. The clinical name of this public health concern is “nosocomial disease”, a type of infection by a microorganism that circulates in hospitals. These are usually aggressive bacteria or fungus that became resistant to many antibiotics, and sometimes new pathogens are added to the list, as it happened recently to the fungus Candida auris. How did it make its way to our hospitals? Are you at risk?

Candida auris, a new deadly superbug

You have probably heard about Candida, commonly known as a yeast infection when it colonizes the vaginal mucosa. Candida auris is an emerging fungus reported in several facilities around the United States and other countries. But different from other Candida species, it is resistant to various antifungal drugs, and it represents a modern global health threat.

Candida auris is often difficult to diagnose and commonly confused with other Candida species. Doctors need special tests and cultures to identify this deadly superbug, and the delay in diagnosis might end up killing 1 in 3 patients with invasive infection.

The backstory of a modern killer

Candida auris infections were identified for the first time in Japan in 2009. It was one of those isolated cases that became a medical mystery up until now. Throughout the years, scientists have detected four types of Candida auris strains, but we still don’t know its source in nature.

Trying to figure out the backstory of this modern killer, scientists have concluded that Candida auris exists somewhere in nature, but it never raised our concern because it wasn’t strong enough to affect us. Somewhere along the way, it started to mutate after being exposed to fertilizers and antifungals common in agriculture. The strongest strains survived and started to become even more deadly.

We still don’t know where it all started, but through genome sequencing, scientists have realized Candida auris has emerged in multiple regions at the same time. It is now reported in over 20 different countries, which includes the United States. The majority of cases in the U.S. are located in the zone of New Jersey, New York and Illinois.

Raising concerns and possible solutions

Up to 60% of patients with Candida auris infections have died. However, we should point out that this nosocomial disease affects patients with poor prognosis and serious immune dysfunction. They already have a very high risk, but it becomes even higher after being colonized by this superbug.

The CDC has reported 587 confirmed cases in the U.S. only, and it has raised the alarm of public health officials all over the country. For this reason, the CDC recommends to take special precautions in healthcare facilities, wash hands properly, and isolate identified patients with extra security measures.

This is not the first time we face new and deadly nosocomial infections, and most Candida auris infections are treatable. The CDC is actively working on methods to detect, understand and treat this pathogen aiming to eliminate this threat from healthcare facilities.