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Readers may recall that in November, 2016, I reported that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicated that the first cases of a drug-resistant and potentially fatal fungal infection known as Candida auris was recorded in the United States.

In 2019, doctors diagnosed hundreds of people with it, hitting New York area the hardest.

“Unbeatable” superbug fungus sickens hundreds across the U.S., CDC says

A drug-resistant superbug fungus has sickened nearly 600 people across the United States in recent years, including more than 300 patients in New York State, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported. Candida auris, which preys on people with weakened immune systems, can be deadly.

CBS New York reports an elderly man died from the fungus last year at Mount Sinai Hospital following abdominal surgery.

“Most C. auris cases in the United States have been detected in the New York City area, New Jersey, and the Chicago area,” the CDC said in a statement.

A study published last year in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases described the deadly potential of Candida auris.

This study reviewed 51 cases of C. auris infections that had occurred in healthcare facilities in New York City from 2016 to 2018. All of the patients already had serious medical conditions prior to getting infected and ranged in age from 21 to 96 years old. Nearly half (45%) of the patients ended up dying within 90 days of being diagnosed with C. auris infections.

Nearly all (98%) of the C. auris samples from 50 of the patients were resistant to fluconazole, a commonly used anti-fungal drug. Testing of different objects and rooms revealed C. auris in the environments of 15 of the 20 healthcare facilities.

Public health officials have sounded the alarm, especially since the origins of this particular fungus are unknown.

Dr. Lynn Sosa, Connecticut’s deputy state epidemiologist, said she now saw C. auris as “the top” threat among resistant infections. “It’s pretty much unbeatable and difficult to identify,” she said.

Nearly half of patients who contract C. auris die within 90 days, according to the C.D.C. Yet the world’s experts have not nailed down where it came from in the first place.

“It is a creature from the black lagoon,” said Dr. Tom Chiller, who heads the fungal branch at the C.D.C., which is spearheading a global detective effort to find treatments and stop the spread. “It bubbled up and now it is everywhere.”

The limited data currently available suggests that the risk factors for Candida auris infections are generally similar to risk factors for other types of Candida infections.

These risk factors include recent surgery, diabetes, broad-spectrum antibiotic and antifungal use. People who have recently spent time in nursing homes and have lines and tubes that go into their body (such as breathing tubes, feeding tubes and central venous catheters), seem to be at highest risk for C. auris infection. Infections have been found in patients of all ages, from preterm infants to the elderly.