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article imageDrug-resistant fungal 'superbug' emerges in Canada

By Karen Graham     May 21, 2019 in Health
Doctors in Canada are being warned about the emergence of an extremely contagious pathogen described as a “fungal superbug” that is resistant to most medications and can be deadly for patients who are already sick.
It was only a matter of time before Candida auris, a type of yeast, made its way to Canada. First described in Japan in 2009, it was discovered that the earliest known strain of C. auris dates to 1996 in South Korea.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) considers C. auris an emerging pathogen because increasing numbers of infections have been identified in multiple countries since it was recognized. To date, C. auris is now in 17 countries, including Canada.
C. auris is a public health threat because it is easily spread through skin contact and it can be difficult to identify. Bernard Camins, MD, medical director for infection prevention at Mount Sinai Health System in New York, tells Health, "The symptoms may not be any different from any other infection you see." They include fever, weakness, low blood pressure, and feeling tired.
A strain of Candida auris cultured in a petri dish at CDC.
A strain of Candida auris cultured in a petri dish at CDC.
Shawn Lockhart/CDC
The fungus is also resistant to most anti-fungal medications, says David Denning at the University Hospital of South Manchester, UK. While some strains of C. auris have proven to be resistant to the three main classes of antibiotics used to treat fungal infections, Denning said, “It’s pretty difficult to find new antibiotics. It’s harder to find new antifungals."
The first known case of Candida auris in Canada occurred in May 2017 in a 64-year-old individual. There have been 19 cases identified in Canada since the first case in 2017.
South of the border, the United States, by March 2017, the fungus had been identified in at least 61 people in the U.S., mostly in New York, New Jersey, and Illinois. Dr. Anne Schuchat, acting director of the CDC labeled C. auris as a “catastrophic threat” to the public.
By February 28, 2019, cases of people having contracted C. auris had risen to 587, with 309 reported in New York, 104 in New Jersey and 144 in Illinois, according to the CDC.
Even though healthy individuals are safe from getting an infection, they can carry the fungus on their skin and transfer it to people who are ill, especially those who may be in the hospital. The fungus can cause bloodstream infections, wound infections, and ear infections – and has a mortality rate of between 30 and 60 percent, according to CTV News Canada.
With the advent of the fungal "superbug" in Canada, health officials have raised questions about what kind of response health centers should take to prevent an outbreak. And there are a number of issues to consider. Public Health Ontario released its own guidelines on C. auris, which included information on how to prevent the pathogen’s spread, how to identify it, and how to treat it.
More about Candida auris, Canada, multidrug resistant
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