After a long stay in the intensive care unit, the patient recovered and was ready to go home when doctors determined he was infected with the deadly drug-resistant fungus Candida auris (C. auris), which was discovered just over a decade ago. It is one of the most dangerous microbes on the human body and can be infected in hospitals around the world. When this blood infection occurs, the mortality rate is estimated at 70%.
We have seen an increasing number of infected patients during the second wave of Covid-19. There are many patients in the NICU and many of them are taking high doses of steroids. “This can cause contamination with Candida auris,” says Dr. Om Srivastava, an infectious disease specialist from Mumbai.
During the pandemic, the so-called black fungus that can attack, among other things, the brain. About 28,000 cases and more than 200 deaths have already been recorded. Currently, doctors are reporting an increase in other fatal fungal infections in COVID-19 patients, which often occur after a week or 10 days of stay in the intensive care unit.
Doctors talk about two types of Candida fungi – auris and apicane – that can be fatal to humans. Candida auris most often causes bloodstream infections, but it can also infect the respiratory system, central nervous system, internal organs, as well as the skin. Many patients with COVID-19, the fungus that appears in the body where the coronavirus has helped damage the skin, blood vessel walls and other airway linings, reaches the respiratory tract.
According to Dr. SB Kalantri, Medical Director of Kasturba Hospital in Wardha, Maharashtra, this infection affects approximately 20 to 30 percent of people. Critically ill with COVID-19 whose respiratory system is mechanically supported. At least 5% of patients in this group require intensive care, sometimes for a prolonged period. Doctors emphasize that those associated with respirators, as a rule, are more likely to develop bacterial or fungal infections. The reason for this is low infection control in crowded intensive care units during a pandemic. “As the pandemic continues, burnout has developed among healthcare workers. Infection control practices have deteriorated.” – says Dr. Arunaluk Chakrabarti, President of the International Society of Human and Animal Mycology. These fungi usually cause infections after the body’s immune system is significantly weakened. They are also known as opportunistic infections,” says Dr. Zachary Rubin, an immunologist. He adds that patients with HIV/AIDS have a significantly increased risk of contracting such an infection.
Diagnosis is not easy. The test usually involves taking a sample of the lungs. In the case of a patient who already has damage to the lungs due to the coronavirus, this is especially difficult. For doctors, it’s almost like fighting windmills.