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“Superbug” fungus has spread to two cities, health officials say


U.S. health officials said Thursday they now have evidence of an incurable fungus spreading across two hospitals and a nursing home.

Outbreaks of “superbug” have been reported at a Washington, DC nursing home and two Dallas-area hospitals, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported. A handful of patients had invasive fungal infections that were impervious to the three main classes of drugs.

“This is really the first time that we are starting to see a cluster of resistance” in which patients seemed to pick up infections from each other, said Dr Meghan Lyman of the CDC.

The fungus, Candida auris, is a harmful form of yeast that is considered dangerous for patients in hospitals and nursing homes with serious medical conditions. It is most deadly when it enters the bloodstream, heart, or brain. Outbreaks in healthcare facilities have been triggered when the fungus has spread through contact with patients or on contaminated surfaces.

Health officials have sounded the alarm bells for years about the superbug after seeing infections in which commonly used drugs had little effect. In 2019, doctors diagnosed three cases in New York City that were also resistant to a class of drugs, called echinocandins, which were seen as a last line of defense.

In these cases, there was no evidence that the infections had spread from patient to patient – scientists concluded that drug resistance formed during treatment.

The new cases have spread, the CDC concluded.

In Washington, DC, a cluster of 101 cases of C. auris at a nursing home dedicated to seriously ill patients included three cases resistant to all three types of antifungal drugs. A group of 22 at two Dallas-area hospitals included two with this level of resistance. The facilities have not been identified.

These cases were observed from January to April. Of the five people who were totally resistant to treatment, three died – patients from Texas and one from Washington.

Lyman said both are ongoing outbreaks and additional infections have been identified since April. But these added figures have not been reported.

Investigators reviewed medical records and found no evidence of prior antifungal use among patients in these groups. Health officials say this means they spread from person to person.

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