A deadly "superbug" fungus has managed to quietly infiltrate U.S. hospitals, mostly in New York and New Jersey, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported.
More than 60 cases of Candida auris, which enters the bloodstream and causes various infections, have been found in the United States, CDC officials told USA Today. The fungus, which has been found in other countries as well, has proven to be resistant to three classes of anti-fungal medicine.
"(Candida auris) can persist on surfaces in health care environments and spread between patients in health care facilities, unlike most other Candida species," a statement on the CDC website said. "… C. auris is difficult to identify with standard laboratory methods and can be misidentified in labs without specific technology.
"CDC encourages all U.S. laboratory staff who identify C. auris strains to notify their state or local public health authorities and CDC … The CDC is working with state and local health departments to identify and investigate cases of C. auris," the statement continued.
Dr. Tom Chiller, chief of the CDC's Mycotic (fungal) diseases branch, told USA Today that the fungus can be passed between sick people as well.
"We are dealing with an organism we don't have drugs to treat," Chiller told USA Today. "That is what worries us. What we have seen (in the U.S. so far) has been treatable. We are trying to aggressively contain it, stop it and kill it."
In a CDC report six months ago, the agency said the fungus had been discovered in 13 people and was connected to four hospital patient deaths in the U.S., USA Today noted.
"Candida auris can kill and probably is killing," Chiller told USA Today. "We are seeing a 30 percent death rate, but these are often very sick people with a lot of medical problems when they get it. It's hard to determine how much of (the death toll) is really related to the fungus."
The Associated Press reported in April that a CDC conference study detailed how researchers found the fungus on surfaces in hospital rooms and on the skin of nurses and patients in Colombia, even after patients were treated with antifungal medications.
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