by Dagny Taggart, The Organic Prepper:
A “mysterious and dangerous” fungal infection has emerged, and experts are warning that it is a serious global health threat.
In A Mysterious Infection, Spanning the Globe in a Climate of Secrecy, The New York Times outlines the terrifying details:
The germ, a fungus called Candida auris, preys on people with weakened immune systems, and it is quietly spreading across the globe. Over the last five years, it has hit a neonatal unit in Venezuela, swept through a hospital in Spain, forced a prestigious British medical center to shut down its intensive care unit, and taken root in India, Pakistan and South Africa.
This fungal infection is extremely difficult to kill.
Last May, an elderly man became infected with C. auris and doctors were not able to save him.
What happened after his death is horrifying:
The man at Mount Sinai died after 90 days in the hospital, but C. auris did not. Tests showed it was everywhere in his room, so invasive that the hospital needed special cleaning equipment and had to rip out some of the ceiling and floor tiles to eradicate it.
“Everything was positive — the walls, the bed, the doors, the curtains, the phones, the sink, the whiteboard, the poles, the pump,” said Dr. Scott Lorin, the hospital’s president. “The mattress, the bed rails, the canister holes, the window shades, the ceiling, everything in the room was positive.” (source)
In late 2015, a similar case occurred at Royal Brompton Hospital, a British medical center outside London. Workers there used a special device to spray aerosolized hydrogen peroxide around a room used for a patient with C. auris. In hopes that the vapor would disinfect the room, they left the device running for a week. When they tested the room to see if any microbes survived, they found only one: C. auris.
C. auris is a serious emerging public health threat.
C. auris is the latest addition to the ever-growing list of one of the world’s most dangerous health threats: the rise of drug-resistant infections.
“It’s an enormous problem,” said Matthew Fisher, a professor of fungal epidemiology at Imperial College London, who was a co-author of a recent scientific review on the rise of resistant fungi. “We depend on being able to treat those patients with antifungals.” (source)
The CDC is concerned about C. aruis for three main reasons, according to the agency’s website:
- It is often multidrug-resistant, meaning that it is resistant to multiple antifungal drugs commonly used to treat Candida infections.
- It is difficult to identify with standard laboratory methods, and it can be misidentified in labs without specific technology. Misidentification may lead to inappropriate management.
- It has caused outbreaks in healthcare settings. For this reason, it is important to quickly identify C. auris in a hospitalized patient so that healthcare facilities can take special precautions to stop its spread.
As of March 29, 2019, 617 cases of C. auris have been reported to the CDC.
Here’s why you might not have heard of this until now.
C. auris seems like something the public should be warned about, doesn’t it?
Officials have been trying to avoid talking about it much for various reasons.
The NYT explains why there is so much secrecy surrounding C. auris:
With bacteria and fungi alike, hospitals and local governments are reluctant to disclose outbreaks for fear of being seen as infection hubs. Even the C.D.C., under its agreement with states, is not allowed to make public the location or name of hospitals involved in outbreaks. State governments have in many cases declined to publicly share information beyond acknowledging that they have had cases. (source)
Some health officials claim that notifying the public about outbreaks will cause unnecessary fear. But others say that people have the right to know if there are local cases so they can avoid going to impacted facilities. Hospitals that have had cases worry about their reputation and tend to avoid publicizing cases of C. auris for that reason.
Overuse of certain medications appears to be making C. auris stronger.
Just as antibiotic overuse has contributed to the rise of resistant bacteria, overuse of antimicrobial drugs is helping fungi becoming resistant:
Scientists say that unless more effective new medicines are developed and unnecessary use of antimicrobial drugs is sharply curbed, risk will spread to healthier populations. A study the British government funded projects that if policies are not put in place to slow the rise of drug resistance, 10 million people could die worldwide of all such infections in 2050, eclipsing the eight million expected to die that year from cancer. (source)
While antifungals are life-saving drugs, they are also applied to prevent agricultural plants from rotting. There is evidence that suggests the rampant use of fungicides on crops is contributing to the surge in drug-resistant fungi infecting humans, according to scientists.