Study: Deadly hospital superbug sheds from patients' skin

Published: Jun. 28, 2019 at 1:32 PM EDT
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Federal health officials are keeping a close eye on a new superbug reported in some hospitals and health facilities. Now a new study is helping researchers understand how the fungus is transmitted and how to stop it from spreading.

Making sure every room in the hospital is safe and clean is a priority for Dr. Carol Barsky. The chief quality officer of Hackensack Meridian Health in New Jersey says there are many places germs can linger. "Our approach here is to have those strong infectious control practices every day, in every patient, in every person," Barsky said.

The latest superbug to emerge is a fungus called Candida auris. More than 680 cases have been reported in hospitals and long term health facilities in 12 states. Now researchers from the CDC have found patients with very high levels of the C. auris on their skin can shed the fungus and contaminate their environment.

"We found a correlation to the amount of Candida on the skin to the amount of Candida on the bedrail," said the CDC's Dr. Tom Chiller. "We know it can survive on skin for very long periods of time."

The CDC says people who get serious C. auris infections are usually sick and hospitalized with other conditions. More than one in three patients with C. auris die.

"It is acquiring or developing, evolving resistance quite rapidly and readily. It is hard to kill," Dr. Chiller said.

Dr. Barsky says Hackensack is diligent about sanitizing rooms daily and in between patients and has not had any C. auris cases. Now they are testing a new UV technology called PurpleSun, which disinfects a room in 90 seconds.

"Wherever high touch areas are, those are more likely to harbor the organisms we are talking about," Dr. Barsky said.

He also reminds staff, patients and families that good hand hygiene is critical to keep germs from spreading.

While the fungus is resistant to some antibiotics, the CDC says new treatments are in clinical trials.