A KILLER drug-resistant fungus is spreading at an alarming rate, figures have shown.
The ‘Last of Us' bug, kills up to 60 per cent of those it infects and has now been recognised as a serious global health threat.
Scientists from the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that Candida auris (C. auris) infections have increased dramatically in the US in recent years.
The organisation described the fungus, which kills up to 60 per cent of people it infects, as an "urgent threat" in 2019.
Since then it been spreading rapidly in healthcare settings, posing a significant risk to immunocompromised patients.
According to CDC figures, there were 2,377 confirmed clinical cases of the bug in the US in 2021 – amarked increase of over 1,200 per cent since 2017.
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Meanwhile, the fungus has been spreading in other continents.
Europe has seen a doubling of cases from 335 in 2022, to 655 in 2021, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.
Between 2013 and 2021, 304 people in England were infected with the killer bug, Government data suggests.
The majority of infections were the result of hospital outbreaks.
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It's resistance to the most common class of antifungal medicines means it's a challenge for doctors to treat.
Dr Luis Ostrosky, an infectious disease expert from McGovern Medical School, US, thinks C. auris is “kind of our nightmare scenario.”
“It’s a potentially multi-drug resistant pathogen with the ability to spread very efficiently in healthcare settings,” he said.
"We’ve never had a pathogen like this in the fungal infection area," he added.
Scientists believe that climate change could be a contributing factor to the sudden emergence and spread of C. auris.
Arturo Casadevall, a microbiologist from Johns Hopkins University, US, said: “We have tremendous protection against environmental fungi because of our temperature.
"However, if the world is getting warmer and the fungi begin to adapt to higher temperatures as well, some … are going to reach what I call the temperature barrier,”
The fungus got it's nickname after the hit zombie shoe The Last of Us.
The drama series involved a different fungal infection, known as cordyceps, which evolved to infect people's brains.
What is C. auris?
C. auris is a fungus that, when it gets into the bloodstream, can cause dangerous infections that can be life-threatening.
It's not a threat to healthy people, but can be deadly for those with weak immune systems, especially those who are already sick, the elderly and newborns.
And about one-third of people who become sick with C. auris die.
It was first identified in a patient in Japan in 2009.
Experts have this year warned the killer fungal infection – that is immune to drugs – is sweeping the globe.
C.auris can be resitent to the major anitfungal drugs, meaning it could be fatal in some cases.
In 2019, the Government issued a warning to hospitals advising them to be aware of this new strain.
To prevent an outbreak, measures include screening and isolating infected patients, enhanced hand hygiene procedures, and cleaning of affected clinical areas.
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Scientists are worried that not enough is being invested in research into fungal illnesses in the UK – despite them playing a part in thousands of deaths a year and despite the limited drugs available at present.
What are the symptoms of C. auris?
Doctors often find the symptoms of a C. auris infection challenging to identify because they usually occur in people who are already ill.
Signs of the disease can vary according to where C. auris is in the body.
It can develop in a variety of places, including in an open wound, the bloodstream, or the ear.
But a common symptom includes a fever or chill that wont subside – even after a person has taken antibiotics.
Source: World Health Organisation
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