A New Drug-Resistant Disease, Deemed An ‘Urgent Threat,’ Is Sweeping The Globe

April 25, 2019
Anna Harnes

For years, doctors and scientists have been warning about the rise of superbugs, or bugs that are resistant to antibiotics or other medicine. The New York Times reports that the first case of a superbug may have just arrived.

The disease in question is a fungus called Candida auris. It tends to hit those with weakened immune systems, like children and the elderly. According to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 90 percent of C. auris infections are resistant to at least one drug, and 30 percent are resistant to two or more drugs, earning it a rating of “urgent threat.”

Most frighteningly, most scientists are still at a loss as to where the superbug came from.

In the past five years, there have been cases in Venezuela, Spain, Britain, India, and the United States. Dr. Tom Chiller, who heads the fungal branch at the CDC and heads the search for a cure, noted its sudden and dangerous emergence.

“It is a creature from the black lagoon. It bubbled up and now it is everywhere.”

An infectious disease expert at Imperial College London, Dr. Johanna Rhodes, echoed the sentiments. After she was called when a breakout occurred at the Royal Brompton Hospital, she was told three main points.

“We have no idea where it’s coming from. We’ve never heard of it. It’s just spread like wildfire.”

In the United States, 587 cases of C. auris have been reported, though they have been mainly in New York, New Jersey, and Illinois.

Doctors face huge problems because it is incredibly difficult to remove the fungus from hospital areas once it has been spread. For example, after an elderly man died in Mount Sinai Hospital in Brooklyn, hospital president Scott Lorin said that the hospital had to rip out floors and ceilings in some cases to eradicate traces of the bug.

“Everything was positive — the walls, the bed, the doors, the curtains, the phones, the sink, the whiteboard, the poles, the pump. The mattress, the bed rails, the canister holes, the window shades, the ceiling, everything in the room was positive.”
The bug also appeared in Spain, at a 992-bed hospital in Valencia. A staggering 41 percent of infected patients died within 30 days, according to medical journal Mycoses. Depressingly, this is a good rate of survival: according to the CDC, nearly half of patients who are infected with C. auris die within three months.

According to Dr. Lynn Sosa, the deputy state epidemiologist of Connecticut, C. auris is the “top” threat of superbugs.

“It’s pretty much unbeatable and difficult to identify,” she said.

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