Health officials confirm Japanese fungus spreading in UK hospitals

Health officials have confirmed that over 200 patients in England have been infected or colonised with a drug-resistant fungus first found in Japan.

Hospitals are looking for more cases and are taking measures to help control any further spread of the fungus, Candida auris.

According to Public Health England, in some cases patients will not have any symptoms, but the infection can cause serious bloodstream and wound infections.

So far, there have been no reports of any patient death in the UK from the infection.

The first UK case was reported in 2013 and infection rates have been going up since then, although it remains rare.

Candida auris has proven difficult to stop as it has developed some resistance to the drug that doctors normally use against it.

As of 20 July the bug had been detected at separate NHS trusts and independent hospitals in the UK.

Over 35 other hospitals had patients known to be infected with Candida auris transferred to them.

According to Dr Colin Brown, from Public Health England's national infection service, most of the UK cases were detected by screening, rather than investigations for patients with symptoms. But bloodstream infections have been seen in 27 patients.

"Our enhanced surveillance shows a low risk to patients in healthcare settings. Most cases detected have not shown symptoms or developed an infection as a result of the fungus.''

C auris was first identified in the ear of a patient in Japan in 2009 and has since then emerged a serious global health threat due to its growing resistance to azoles, echinocandins, and polyenes-the three classes of antifungals used to treat Candida and other fungal infections.

The multi-drug resistant fungus can cause severe invasive infections in patients with compromised immune systems and has been associated with high mortality.

Reports from countries that have documented cases show that the majority of patients have multiple underlying health conditions.