Local hospital sees case of drug-resistant fungus

Health care. With cases of Candida auris on the rise, health officials in New York State identified the hospitals that have treated patients for the antibiotic-resistant fungus, while their New Jersey counterparts won’t release any information and hospitals there stay mum.

| 20 Nov 2019 | 02:07

The bad news is that cases of the antibiotic-resistant fungus Candida auris are on the rise. The good news? Hospitals in our New York and Pennsylvania coverage areas haven’t seen very many of them.

New York State identified the hospitals that have treated patients for C. auris in a report released Nov. 13, with Orange Regional Medical Center in Middletown and Good Samaritan Hospital in Suffern making the list.

Spokesman Rob Lee said Orange Regional treated one patient with C. auris for less than 23 hours in 2018. The hospital has not seen any cases since then, he said.

“As with any infectious disease, we work closely with the New York State Department of Health to monitor statewide C. auris trends, as well as use best-practice infection control guidelines to ensure the well-being of all patients,” Lee said.

Helene Guss, communications director for the Bon Secours Charity Health System, said St. Anthony Community Hospital in Warwick has not seen any cases of C. auris. Good Samaritan Hospital, however, did treat nursing home cases of the fungal infection.

The Centers for Disease Control says C. auris is of particular concern because it behaves like multidrug-resistant bacteria. It can colonize a patient's skin for months or longer, and live on surfaces for a month or more. The CDC says it does not know why C. auris began affecting humans only recently.

New Jersey and Pennsylvania

Things are less clear on the New Jersey side, however, as state health officials are not releasing any information on C. auris cases, and hospitals there are keeping silent.

All information about C. auris cases in the state must be released by the state Department of Health, said Louise Gonzalez, public relations strategist for the Atlantic Health System.

Gonzalez handles public relations for Newton Memorial Hospital and Chilton Medical Center, both of which are part of the Atlantic Health System network.

In a Nov. 15 email, Donna Leusner, director of communications for the New Jersey Department of Health, said the department has no plans to release a report similar to New York State’s.

In Honesdale, Pa., Wayne Memorial Hospital officials said the facility has not seen any cases.

What sets this hardy yeast apart
Dr. Tom Chiller, chief of the Mycotic Diseases Branch at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), calls Candida auris "a novel yeast that is behaving in unexpected and concerning ways, causing severe disease in countries across the globe, including the United States." He says several features set C. auris apart from other Candida species and make it a particular concern:
C. auris can spread between patients in healthcare facilities and cause outbreaks. In this way, it appears to behave much like some multidrug-resistant bacteria.
C. auris can colonize a patient's skin for months or longer. It can be readily detected by culturing swabs of a colonized patient's axilla, groin, or other body sites. Contact precautions, as well as strict attention to hand hygiene, are critical elements in controlling spread.
This hardy yeast can live on surfaces for a month or more, and preliminary testing suggests that quaternary ammonium compounds commonly used for healthcare disinfection may not be sufficiently effective against it.
C. auris is quickly becoming more common. In some international healthcare facilities, it has gone from an unknown pathogen to a cause of 40 percent of invasive Candida infections within a few years.
C. auris is often multidrug resistant. Some strains have been resistant to all three major antifungal classes.
C. auris has reportedly never been isolated from the natural environment, and it does not seem to have been a common colonizer of humans before 2009. More research is needed to understand where in the environment C. auris lives and why it began affecting humans only recently.
Source: CDC.gov