Drug-resistant super fungus also found in Singapore
Those with weak immune systems vulnerable to killer germ, but it is not a danger to the general population, says expert
A Singapore hospital has seen at least three cases since 2012 of Candida auris, a super fungus that kills nearly half of its victims within 90 days.
Two Singaporean medical researchers highlighted the incidents in a letter to a local medical journal last July.
The earliest sample of the drug-resistant fungus was found in South Korea in 1996, and it has since been detected in other continents.
In their letter, Dr Tan Yen Ee and Associate Professor Tan Ai Ling outlined the three local cases of C. auris and stressed that the emerging fungus was of increasing global concern.
The first patient in 2012, a Singaporean woman who was hurt in a road accident in India, recovered. The other two cases in 2016 involved a Bangladeshi man and an American man who were treated in Singapore.
The American, who had fallen sick in Bangladesh, died following complications. It is not known what happened to the Bangladeshi, who left Singapore after being discharged against medical advice.
Professor Paul Tambyah of the Department of Medicine, NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, said the fungus is not a danger to the general population.
"So far, most of the cases have occurred in patients with weakened immune systems such as very low birthweight premature infants, the elderly who have had complicated surgery, or patients undergoing chemotherapy," he told The New Paper, adding that there is almost no chance of it becoming a Sars-type epidemic.
Severe acute respiratory syndrome killed more than 700 patients worldwide, including 33 in Singapore, in 2002.
Prof Tambyah, who is also senior consultant at the division of infectious diseases at National University Hospital, said: "This is the first major multi-resistant fungal pathogen to spread so extensively, but we have a lot of experience with multi-resistant bacteria.
"Though they remain a problem, we have strategies in place and potential treatments for vulnerable patients affected by difficult-to-treat bacteria.
"Hopefully, the same will be true for this fungus."
Dr Chia Shi-Lu, who chairs the Government Parliamentary Committee for Health, said while the fungus is not a threat to healthy individuals, that we know little about it is worrying.
"We don't know what to look out for," he told TNP, and added that this makes infection control more difficult.
The fungus is so invasive that even after a patient died in a US hospital, the germ lived on and infected the entire room, The New York Times reported.
The hospital needed special cleaning equipment and had to rip out part of the ceiling and floor tiles to eradicate it.
Dr Chia said that while such fungal infections are difficult to detect, Singapore has strategies in place to manage such hospital-acquired infections.
He said: "This is just one superbug and won't be the last. We treat each one with the same respect and care, and maintain standards for prevention and surveillance."
In their letter, Dr Tan and Prof Tan said the three Singapore cases appeared to be imported, which "highlights the need for a screening policy for C. auris in patients transferred from overseas hospitals".
They also urged healthcare institutions to consider including C. auris in their screening protocols and further strengthen infection control measures.
Prof Tambyah said: "Efforts are being taken by agencies such as the US CDC (Centres for Disease Control and Prevention) and the UK's Health Protection Agency and many other international and local professional bodies, including those in Singapore, to detect these infections and make sure they do not spread to vulnerable patients."
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