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Candida auris: The deadly superbug that may become a global threat

Candida auris can cause bloodstream infections and even death. © Shutterstock

Here is everything you need to know about Candida auris, the drug-resistant fungus that can kill millions if not tamed on time.

An elderly was admitted to the Brooklyn branch of Mount Sinai Hospital in May 2018 for an abdominal surgery. He lost his life a deadly fungus known as Candida auris 90 days after he was diagnosed with it. According to reports, even after the man passed away, the fungus lived through the entire room he was treated in. In fact, the fungus was everywhere, starting from the window curtains and ceiling to floor tiles. Candida auris was so all-pervasive that the hospital had to use special cleaning equipment and remove some parts of the ceiling and floor tiles to get rid it.

Candida auris is not only an intrusive fungus, it is difficult to treat as well as it is multi-drug resistant, says a study published last year in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases. For the research, scientists analysed 51 cases of Candida auris infection that were spotted in the hospitals of New York between 2016 and 2018. All the patients involved in the study were 21 and 96 years old. However, they were already suffering from some medical conditions before getting this fungal infection. It was found that around 45 per cent of these patients lost their lives within 90 days of getting the infection, while 98 per cent were infected with the fungus that was resistant to a commonly used anti-fungal drug called fluconazole. Also, 15 out of 20 healthcare facilities had Candida auris spread in their objects and rooms.

So far, Candida was known mostly for triggering relatively less innocuous conditions like rashes. But with the emergence of C. auris, this fungus shouldn't be taken lightly any more, or else, we may have to end up paying heavily for it. This drug-resistant fungus has all the potential to invade our immune system and stand up against all the available weapons we have.

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HOW CANDIDA AURIS HAS AFFECTED THE WORLD SO FAR

This fungus has emerged as a global threat. It poses multiple challenges in front of the health experts, starting from its diagnosis and treatment to preventing it from spreading further. So far, the fungus has been found to affect many across the globe including India. Here are some of the international of Candida auris infection.

India & Pakistan

Globally, these two countries stay in the top list of highest Candida auris cases. The distinctive and mysterious auris strain was discovered in Pakistan in around 2008 and in Delhi around 2009.

Japan

Candida auris first appeared in Japan in the year 2009. It affected a 70-year-old Japanese woman s ear.

South Africa

In South Africa, between 2012 and 2016, around 451 patients got infected with a genetically distinct strain of Candida auris.

Central And South America

In the Americas, the first outbreak of this infection was recorded at a medical centre in Venezuela between 2012 and 2013. 5 among 18 patients infected with this candida auris lost their lives.

United States

Since the year 2013, around 587 Candida auris cases have been found in the United States.

Europe

In Europe, this infection became an epidemic of sorts between 2015 and 2016. During this time, Candida auris affected 72 patients in a London-based hospital.

FUNGI FACTS

Candida auris is one of the strains of the fungus Candida. It can spread both from patient to patient directly or from the surrounding environment as well. It can thrive on an infected person's skin and also in the that he is stays close to. Therefore, coming in close contact with a Candida auris infected patient or even visiting his room can increase your risk of getting the infection. Infection caused by this fungus is difficult to treat due to its resistance to 3 major classes of anti-fungal drugs. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 90 per cent of C. auris infections are resistant to at least one drug, whereas 30 per cent are resistant to two or more drugs. Also, a British government funded study estimated that if the rise of drug resistance of this fungus is not slowed down, it will probably kill around 10 million people globally in 2050.

Generally infecting your wounds, ears, and bloodstreams, this fungus mostly affects people admitted to hospitals for several weeks. During tests, it has been found in the patient s urine and respiratory tracts. However, it is still unknown if Candida auris infects the urinary and respiratory tract as well or not. According to doctors, your chance of developing this infection becomes very less if you have a strong immune system. But, if you are already suffering from conditions like diabetes mellitus, or have recently gone through antibiotic treatment, or surgery, you are most likely to get the infection as these conditions reduce your body s immunity.

ORIGIN OF THIS DEADLY SUPERBUG

There are various theories about the origin of auris. It was first discovered in a Japanese woman who got this infection in her ear in 2009. At that time, it was perceived to be a common fungal infection that is treatable. However, just 3 years later it came out as something of great concern. Dr Jacques Meis, a microbiologist in Nijmegen, Netherlands, tested and analysed bloodstream infections in 18 patients from four hospitals in India. It was then found that new clusters of C. auris were emerging rapidly worldwide. Scientists from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention made a comparison between the entire genome of auris samples from different countries including India and Pakistan, South Africa,Venezuela, and Japan. They figured out that this fungus didn't have a single origination point and that, it has four different versions. The differences between them were vast. According to some theories, fungicides used in crops are responsible for the emergence of these deadly fungi.

GUARD YOURSELF AGAINST CANDIDA AURIS

It has been found that people mostly catch Candida auris infection from hospitals. So, to keep these fungi at bay, always choose a hospital that takes special measures to prevent and control infections from spreading. Hospitals should have entirely sperate rooms for people infected with this fungus. Nobody should be allowed inside the patient s room unless they wear disposable gloves and gowns. Also, hospitals having C. auris patients need to disinfect their rooms with special anti-fungal cleaners.

It has been noticed that people with weakened immune systems are mostly vulnerable to this infection. Therefore, opting foods that can boost your defence mechanism can help you keep this deadly infection at bay. Citrus fruits including lemons, oranges, and grapefruits are known to be rich in vitamin C that increases the production of white blood cells in the body and help fight against infections. Also, spinach is a good option as it contains antioxidants, vitamin C, and beta carotene that have immune boosting properties. Garlic is jam-packed with a sulfur-rich compound called allicin that again serves the same purpose. Broccoli can potentially fight against fungal infections due to the presence of antioxidants, vitamins A, C, and E in it. Moreover, yogurt, which is the most common probiotic food, can regulate your immune system and boost its function as it contains good bacteria and has vitamin D as well.

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