First Cases of Superbug Fungus Detected in Louisiana

'I equate it to the tip of the iceberg,' doctor says of Candida auris find
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jan 19, 2022 1:58 PM CST
Superbug Fungus Found in Louisiana for First Time
This 2016 photo made available by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows a strain of Candida auris cultured in a petri dish at a CDC laboratory.   (Shawn Lockhart/CDC via AP)

A hospital in New Orleans says it has identified two patients infected with a rare, drug-resistant fungus—the first time it's been found in Louisiana. Candida auris has already been found in Washington, DC, and at least 20 other states including Georgia, Florida, and Texas, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The fungus is a harmful form of yeast that can be resistant to the most common antifungal drugs. The CDC considers it an emerging global threat and says it is especially dangerous to hospital and nursing home patients with serious medical problems. Although the patients at University Medical Center are the first known in Louisiana, other undetected cases are likely, Dr. Nirav Patel, chief medical officer told the Times-Picayune.

"This bug could have been here in Louisiana for quite some time," he said. More than 1,100 cases had been diagnosed nationwide as of Aug. 21, according to the CDC. California has reported 245 cases, Illinois 243, and New York 235. The CDC says people apparently most at risk are those who have been in a health care facility a long time and have a line or tube into the body, such as a breathing tube, feeding tube, or central venous catheter. It can cause infections in the bloodstream or in wounds. The hospital, citing patient privacy, did not disclose whether its infected patients had recently been transferred from other health care centers, when the infections were identified, or whether the patients had a history of international travel.

But it’s likely more cases will follow, said Dr. Alfred Luk, medical director of transplant infectious diseases at Tulane University School of Medicine. "I know everyone is exhausted from alarmist news, but I’m really concerned about it," Luk said. "Usually when we find this ... I equate it to the tip of the iceberg." The fungus can spread easily in settings such as nursing homes and hospitals because it can survive on skin and other surfaces, the AP reports. It’s likely been brewing on surfaces and people for some time, Luk said. Health experts said the risk is low for healthy patients but those who are immunocompromised can face severe complications.

(Read more fungus stories.)

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