NBC News

Dangerous, Drug-Resistant Fungus Causing Infections in Illinois May Increase With Global Warming

The fungus, a type of yeast called Candida auris, was discovered just 10 years ago in a Japanese patient with an ear infection

There's a new theory about the origins of a dangerous, drug-resistant fungus that had Illinois health experts warning earlier this year: global warming. 

The proposal, from researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, was published Tuesday in the journal mBio, NBC News reported.

The fungus, a type of yeast called Candida auris, was discovered just 10 years ago in a Japanese patient with an ear infection. ("Auris" is Latin for "ear.") Since then, it has been diagnosed in patients around the world.

But C. auris didn't spread like a virus would, radiating out from one location. Instead, it popped up simultaneously in different parts of the world, including India, South Africa and South America.

Health officials warned about such infections in Illinois in April

As of May 31, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 180 confirmed cases in Illinois and four probable cases. The Illinois Department of Public Health said there have been 196 confirmed cases since May 24, 2016, 120 of which were in Chicago. Another 533 people were found to have Candida auris on their skin, but were not ill. 

IDPH warned that Candida auris infections can be difficult to treat, noting that antifungal medicines commonly used to treat similar infections "often don't work." 

Public health officials have been "conducting surveillance for clinical cases and also screening individuals in health care facilities where clinical cases C. auris have been found," IDPH states. 

Symptoms for the fungus may not differ from those of other infections and can vary depending on which part of the body becomes infected, IDPH warned. Some can even have the fungus on their body without developing an infection or any symptoms, though it is still possible for those poeople to pass it on to others.

Officials warn people who visit health facilities to clean their hands with soap after coming in contact with a patient or any medical devices.

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