The New York Times reported Saturday morning that an elderly man was admitted to Mount Sinai Hospital’s branch in Brooklyn for abdominal surgery. After getting his blood tested, it was revealed that he was infected with Candida auris, a fungus that was recently discovered but has been identified in patients around the world. The fungus is most deadly to those with already weak immune systems.
The elderly man, who was not named by the Times, was isolated in the intensive care unit, but died 90 days later. What makes his case so frightening is that after his death, doctors tested his room and discovered the fungus was everywhere.
“Everything was positive — the walls, the bed, the doors, the curtains, the phones, the sink, the whiteboard, the poles, the pump,” Dr. Scott Lorin, president of the Brooklyn branch, told the Times. “The mattress, the bed rails, the canister holes, the window shades, the ceiling, everything in the room was positive.”
The hospital had to use “special cleaning equipment” and even had to remove part of the ceiling and floors to get rid of the fungus.
Reports of C. auris have come from Venezuela, Spain, Great Britain, India, Pakistan, and South Africa, according to the Times. In the U.S., cases in Illinois and New Jersey have also been reported, as well as others in New York.
The Centers for Disease Control said it “identified 51 clinical case-patients and 61 screening case-patients” in New York alone. The CDC reported 45% of the clinical case-patients died within 90 days.
Further, in the same study linked above, 98% of the clinical-case patients were resistant to fluconazole, which is used to treat serious fungal infections such as meningitis. The strength and resistance of the infection led the CDC to deem C. auris a “serious threat,” and said it infected 3,400 and caused 220 deaths per year.
The CDC also reported that the median age for the clinical case-patients was 72, but that the ages of those infected ranged from 21 to 96 years. Fifty-one percent of those infected were male, and all patients had “serious concurrent medical conditions,” such as needing “mechanical ventilation or central venous catheters or gastrostomy tubes.”
Infections like C. auris have been able to thrive due to the overuse of antibiotics, the Times reported. Such over-prescribing has reduced the effectiveness of the drugs, allowing once curable bacterial infections to thrive once again. Now, fungal infections are becoming resistant.
Naturally, those most at risk of these “superbugs” are newborns and the elderly, who generally have weaker immune systems.