Collin County

Superbug Fungus in Two Collin County Hospitals Killed Four, Officials Say

Health officials said the general public is not typically at risk of contracting Candida auris, a drug-resistant fungus that causes invasive infections, outside of a hospital or health care setting

Yeast candida auris
Nicolas Armer/Picture Alliance via Getty Images

After U.S. health officials said they had evidence of a "superbug" spreading in two Dallas-area hospitals Thursday, local and state officials confirmed Friday that the Candida auris fungus spread within two Collin County hospitals.

Four patients infected with the "superbug" fungus died, according to a news release from Collin County officials, who did not identify the hospitals.

According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, Candida auris is a harmful type of yeast that can cause invasive infections.

The general public is not typically at risk of contracting an infection from Candida auris, health officials said, but people in nursing homes and hospitals are most at risk.

It is most deadly when it enters the bloodstream, heart or brain.

The CDC said a cluster of 22 Candida auris cases in the two Dallas-area hospitals included two that were resistant to all three kinds of antifungal medications. Both of those patients died, the CDC said.

Local health officials confirmed a total of nine cases in the two Collin County hospitals and said the first reported case of the drug-resistant Candida auris came on January 25, 2021.

After the first case, multiple health advisories were sent statewide to hospitals and healthcare facilities in early 2021.

But the CDC said its count of 22 cases were seen from January to April and that additional infections have been identified since April but have not been reported.

According to Dr. Meghan Lyman of the CDC, the recent outbreak, along with an outbreak in Washington D.C. "is really the first time we've started seeing clustering of resistance."

Health officials have sounded alarms for years about the superbug after seeing infections in which commonly used drugs had little effect.

In 2019 three-drug resistant cases in New York, doctors found fully-resistant cases of Candida auris but no evidence of patient-to-patient spread.

But for the recent outbreaks, investigators reviewed medical records and found no evidence of previous antifungal use among the patients in those clusters. Health officials say that means they spread from person to person.

Dr. Lawrence Muscarella, an infection control expert, told the Dallas Morning News that any patients concerned about the fungus should ask their physician about any outbreaks or clusters at their facility.

“If my physician’s answer is suitable, I would feel comfortable, trusting and proceed without losing sleep,” Muscarella said to the News's Kelli Smith. “But if the answers to my questions seem vague as unlikely as this may be, I would select another facility for my procedure. Under no circumstances, however, would I cancel the procedure. I would just select another more suitable, nearby and reputable facility for it to be performed. In general, when you ask questions, your safety increases.”

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